Okay, so we thought that Galileo invented the telescope. He did not.
An eyeglass maker from the Netherlands named Hans Lippershey filed the first patent for the telescope back on October 2, 1608. Telescopes may have existed before that, and Lippershey might not have come up with the idea entirely on his own.
Zacharias Janssen, a glassmaker who lived in the same town, claimed that he had invented the telescope and that Lippershey stole his design. Engineer Jacob Metius (also from the Netherlands) claimed that he had invented the telescope. Regardless, Lippershey filed the first patent and is generally considered the inventor of the telescope. Or at least a co-inventor.
Galileo heard about this newfangled invention, made improvements, and then decided to be the first person to point a telescope up at the stars.
So what is Galactic Tick Day?
It takes the Earth one Earth year to make one complete orbit around the Sun. That’s what a year is. It’s slightly more complicated than that, which is why we have Leap Years and why spring started yesterday instead of today. Anyway, you knew that already.
The sun (and the Earth and the entire solar system) orbits the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of 515,000 miles per hour. Yes, the Earth rotates at about 1,000 miles per hour. We orbit the sun at roughly 67,000 miles per hour. And we’re orbiting the center of the galaxy at over half a million miles per hour. That’s fast. Sort of.
The Milky Way galaxy is really, really big. Even though we are hurtling through space (it’s a controlled hurtling) at 515,000 miles per hour, it takes 225 million years to complete one galactic orbit.
So what’s a Galactic Tick?
It is not the star-devouring, parasitic space-arachnid hiding behind the black hole at the center of the Milky Way. No one really knows what that thing is.
A Galactic Tick is 1/129,000,000 of the sun’s journey around the center of the galaxy.
Galactic Tick Day celebrates the time it takes for the sun to complete one centi-arcsecond of that orbit. A degree is 1/60 of a 360 degree turn, an arcsecond is 1/3600 of a degree, and a centi-arcsecond is 1/100 of that.
The sun (and the Earth and the entire solar system) completes one Galactic Tick every 1.7 years.
And what does this have to do with Hans Lippershey? The creator of Galactic Tick Day, a software engineer from San Francisco, chose the day by counting intervals of 1.7 years from the day that Hans Lippershey filed his patent for the telescope back in 1608. The first Galactic Tick Day took place in 2016. The next will be in 2022.
The idea of Galactic Tick Day is to celebrate human curiosity, invention, and discovery. And to remind us that the Universe is a really, really big place.
On Saturday night, if the sky is clear, take a moment to look up and out at the Universe. We’re all moving through it, one centi-arcsecond at a time.