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Turn and Face the Strange Changes

Change seems to be what life is all about right now.

My daughter, like so many other kids right now, has begun school again…and it’s changed.  I’m still writing these from my breakfast nook, even though I have been able to go back to work from time to time now.  My husband is working in our home office.  Work has changed too.  Life has changed.

But that’s not really anything new, is it?  Life was always about change.  Certainly, very little about the world is the same as it was back in the day.  We live with constant change…even if that change is on very long time scales.

As we’ve adjusted to life in this pandemic, my daughter and I have bonded by watching a lot of anime.  We recently finished one (at least what is available of it…waiting on a new season!) called Dr. Stone.  The premise is that somehow, something turns all the humans on the planet (and oddly enough, all the swallows) to stone.  For 3700 years.  Civilization collapses.  When humans begin to wake up, everything has changed.

Except the sky.  The constellations, even in 3700 years, will still look pretty familiar.  There would be some change, sure, but for the most part, you’d still be able to recognize the constellations even if you suddenly found yourself living on Earth in the year 5720.

But even the stars change if you wait long enough.

“As constant as the North Star” is famous in song and story.  Even Shakespeare used the North Star as a metaphor for faithfulness and consistency.  It’s always in the same place in the sky.  It never moves…the north pole of the Earth points at the star Polaris, and as we rotate, all the other stars in the northern hemisphere turn in great circles around it.  But Polaris remains fixed and true – a beacon showing us the north.

The location of the North Celestial Pole in 2020. It lines up almost perfectly with the star we call Polaris – the North Star.

But not forever.  Over very long time scales, even the North Star becomes inconstant.

You see, the Earth is kind of like a top, spinning in place.  This rotation gives us day and night, and allows us to see celestial objects appear to move across our sky.  But also like a top, the Earth doesn’t stand perfectly straight up and down.  We’re tilted a bit, and we wobble a little.  Not much, but enough that, over a long enough period of time, our axis of rotation no longer points to exactly the same place in the sky.

Back in around 6000 BC, the pole star of the Earth was a star in Draco the Dragon called Thuban.  And, in about 14000 AD, our pole star will be Vega…sort of.  Vega will actually be a little ways off from the pole, but it’s so bright that it will be able to do the job well, even if it isn’t exactly still.

The location of the North Celestial Pole in 14000 AD. It will be very close to, but not exactly lined up with, Vega, brightest star of the Summer Triangle.

So you see, this too shall pass.  Just wait.  Change comes to everything.  So get excited people…there’s a 10 billion percent chance that more change is coming.  Might as well embrace it.


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