Moon, Regulus, and Saturn
As years go, 1930 was a clunker. The world was in the grip of the Great Depression. The Nazi party was gaining ground in Germany. And by year's end, odd climate patterns were beginning to set up the Dust Bowl that would later ravage the Great Plains.
Fortunately, the events of that year are long gone. But we can see a bit of 1930 in the sky tonight, in the star Regulus. It huddles with the Moon and the planet Saturn for most of the night.
Regulus is 77 and a half light-years away. That means that light from the star takes 77 and a half years to reach Earth. So when you look at Regulus tonight, you're actually seeing it as it looked in late 1930.
Few things highlight the vastness of the universe better than the time it takes light to cross the interstellar gulf. Nothing in the known universe goes faster than light moving through the vacuum of space -- 186,000 miles per second -- the equivalent of more than seven trips around Earth's equator. But even at that speed, it takes almost four generations for light to speed from Regulus to Earth. And Regulus is a pretty close neighbor compared to most of the stars in the universe.
Regulus is to the east of the Moon tonight -- a little below the Moon in early evening, and just above it as they set around 4 or 5 in the morning. Saturn, which is a little brighter, is a little farther in the same direction. We'll have more about Saturn tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2008
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