The short answer is that Saturn’s distance from the sun is given as about 890.7 million miles.
It’s a long way in relation to what we ordinarily experience, but negligible compared to pretty much everything else.
What I think is fun is putting that distance into perspective. Almost all of us have taken a trip on an airliner. I don’t know about you, but if the trip is more than about 2.5 hours, my posterior begins to wish it wasn’t sitting anymore. When I can, I rise, and walk to the back of the plane, then back to my seat more than once. 5 hour flights, such as back to New York from my home in California are an ordeal, and I am always relieved to land and get off of the plane.
So, if we had calm air that went all the way to Saturn in sufficient density to permit us to fly there, how long would it take to get there from earth? And what if we wanted to make a short stop along the way, maybe at Jupiter? Jupiter’s average distance from the Sun is about 484 million miles. Now mind you there are many caveats to be made here. As we orbit the sun in our annual trek, we are sometimes on the same side of the sun as Saturn, and sometimes on the opposite side. For this journey, we will start our voyage on the same side. Also the planets are not really aligned but they will be for this example, as if they were arranged on a giant CD. For simplicity, I also ignore the fact that all the bodies are moving, so this example will presume that our journey will not require the long looping orbits we all see that spacecraft actually take. In this example we’re traveling a straight line, as if we were plotting it on a solar system map with a ruler. It’s not an accurate route to actually get there but the numbers should still make the point.
So here goes: Most airliners travel on long voyages at altitudes above 30,000 feet at speeds approaching 580 miles per hour. On earth because of head winds or tail winds the actual ground speed varies, but we shall use 580 MPH. Our jet has a unique characteristic – it needs no refueling – and it has an endless supply of airline food – yummy – and endless bar drinks which we all be old enough to drink no matter how old we are when we start the voyage – and bathroom toilets that automatically empty themselves – outside not back into the plane.
Our jet, in 24 hours, travels 580 mph x 24 = 13,920 miles. It would travel 5,080,800 miles in a year, again traveling 24 hours a day and never stopping. So if we round (down) our yearly travel distance to 5 million miles, it is easy to see that if we started our trip from the Sun, just to get to the Earth, it would take 93,000,000 miles (Earth’s rounded up distance from the sun) divided by 5 million = 18.6 years! I don’t know about you, but it boggles my mind that it would take that long just to fly from the Sun to Earth. But wait! There’s more!
If our next stop was Jupiter, which is 365 million miles from earth, at its closest point, you need to divided 5 million into 365 million = an additional 73 years.
To get to Saturn from Earth we divide 5 million into 797.7million (890.7 million minus 93,000,000) the total flying time from Earth would have been 159 years, (and from the Sun 177.6 years).
The way we experience distance and time on Earth, Saturn is indeed a VERY long way away. Fortunately for us, our space craft travel considerably faster than an airliner, and the reality of calculating a trajectory to get it to Saturn means it travels a much greater distance than what I have shown here.
I hope humans will someday be able to travel to the stars but to do so will require some remarkable future technology. Perhaps you might be the one to help build it.
What do you think about the vastness of space?
Originally posted 2015-08-07 09:24:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter