The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.
Emily Dickinson, ‘The Brain’
Most science teachers find that ‘Space’ is one of the most enduringly fascinating topics for many students: the sense of wonder engendered as our home planet becomes lost in the empty vastness of the Solar System, which then becomes lost in the trackless star-studded immensity of the Milky Way galaxy, is a joy to behold.
But a common question asked by students is: How do we know all this? How do we know the distance to the nearest star to the Sun is 4 light-years? Or how do we know the distance to the Sun? Or the Moon?
I admit, with embarrassment, that I used to answer with a casual and unintentionally-dismissive ‘Oh well, scientists have measured them!’ which (though true) must…
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