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Matrix Software > Learng Astrology > Astrophysical Directions > Solar Neighborhood > Local Spiral Arm

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Back to Solar Neighborhood   |   Back to Astrophysical Direction 

The Structure of the Local Spiral Arm

The diagram on this page represents the general structure of the local portion of the spiral arm in which our Sun is embedded. Even the very nearest stars (and they are few) are at a great distance. It takes light over four years to reach us from our closest stellar neighbors. It is difficult to get a feel for such vast distance. For instance, the 6000 or so naked-eye stars are all very, very near to us in terms of cosmic distance. In fact, almost all of the objects in this catalog (with the exception of the external galaxies and quasars, etc.) are quite near. They are not far from where we are in terms of the size of our mother galaxy. In other words, we cannot see too far out across our galaxy.

If you will refer to this map once in a while, as you get to know some of the different kinds of celestial objects, it will come home to you that most of the famous objects that astronomers refer to (that illustrate the many astronomical books) are more or less our neighbors. Objects like the Pleiades, the Crab Nebula, and the Orion Nebula are on the one hand so distant that it is difficult to imagine and on the other, so close (in terms of any comprehensive cosmic distance scale), that one gets the idea that we know only about our nearest neighbors, and no one else. Although we have developed a receptive or passive knowledge of time and space, we have just begun to become active and reach out or travel through space. The Hubble telescope is changing all of this.

The Structure of the Local Spiral Arm

Copyright (c) 1997-99 Michael Erlewine


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