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Holten: Summertime is star-gazing time

It's summertime, which means that, like this past Fourth of July weekend, a lot of us gather around lakes, dams and rivers, fire up the barbecue, eat pound-and-a-half burgers and bratwurst and sip a few sodas and brews.

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It’s summertime, which means that, like this past Fourth of July weekend, a lot of us gather around lakes, dams and rivers, fire up the barbecue, eat pound-and-a-half burgers and bratwurst and sip a few sodas and brews.

It’s also a time when we pay a little more attention to the twinkling stars in the night sky.

And especially on the Fourth of July, we gathered together to gaze at fireworks bursting forth from the Heavens and it was then that we inevitably say to each other, “Hey, there’s the Milky Way.”

Now, you may not know it but the Milky Way was given its name by the Greeks many years ago and we now know that it contains from 100 to 400 billion stars and maybe even up to one trillion, with at least a billion planets and, at the center of it all, a super massive black hole sucking in the older planets.

Remarkably, when you look at the Milky Way at night, you are only seeing about 0.0000025 percent of the galaxy’s hundreds of billions of stars.

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But just to give you an even greater sense of how big it is, in the 65 million or so years since dinosaurs died on earth, the sun has still only traveled about a third of the way around the Milky Way’s center.

In fact, the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years from edge to edge, which means that if a rocket could travel at the speed of light, which it can’t, it would still take it 100,000 years to cross the galaxy.

And how fast is the speed of light? Well, it takes one second for light to go from the Earth to the Moon, so that will give you some idea.

Not only that but since the time that OUR solar system was born over 4.6 billion years ago, it has only orbited the Milky Way less than 20 times and made only 1/1250 of a revolution since the origin of man.

All of that means the Milky Way is really big but, nevertheless, it is also very fast, rotating at a speed of 168 miles per second, which means that wherever it was an hour ago is now roughly 600,000 miles away and 600,000 miles per hour is pretty fast in any book.

So what’s my point?

My point is that there’s a lot of “stuff” out there in and beyond the Milky Way and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s a little hard to believe that whatever it is might not be made up of a little more than dust and gas.

No, I don’t want to get into the alien thing. But I do want to explore the existence of a parallel universe, which according to Texas Tech University chemistry professor, Bill Poirier and others, is a mathematical possibility.

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It has something to do with his discovery that particles at atomic and subatomic levels appear to be at two places at one time.

I’d love to be in two places at one time. And I’d especially love to be in one place at an earlier time, which would be considered time travel.

And that begs the question, if you could travel back in time, where would you go?

Would you go to your parents wedding? Watch your first bike ride? Re-attend your fifth birthday party or visit Ford’s theater the night that President Lincoln was shot?

If you did travel back in time I think you might be surprised by how much things are so much the same and also so much different.

Then again, maybe I’d just go back 24 hours, to re-enjoy what I forgot to enjoy, over and over again, every day, continually giving myself a double dose of life.

As Carol Ann Duffy, the Scottish poet and playwright said, “You can find poetry in your everyday life, in your memory, in what people say, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.”

Holten is the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and writes a weekly column for The Press.

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