If you ask a crowd of Americans if the sun goes around the Earth, a quarter of them will make you lose hope. That is, unless you are one of the four that thinks the sun orbits our planet.
I first read about this study back in 2014. When I saw this article crop up again today, I really felt the need to fact-check to confirm it’s validity. Sadly, there is no evidence against it, so let’s be depressed together. The National Science Foundation surveyed 2,200 people, asking them various questions. One of those questions was “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth,” 26 percent of the people surveyed got it wrong.
Look around you. Are you one of the idiots that think the sun goes around our planet? Fear not. I want to help. If you aren’t a dullard, however, chances are there is one standing nearby, possibly vaping or apologizing for Donald Trump. Use this guide to help those with lower cognitive capabilities.
Don’t Be a Dummy: The Earth Travels Around the Sun
At night, go somewhere dark. I mean, really dark. Get away from the cities or the comforting glow of the nearest Walmart Supercenter, and look up at the sky. If it’s not a clear night, stay there and wait until it is. It’s okay, nobody is going to worry about where you are. When you look up at the sky on a clear night, you’ll see lots of stars. You knew this already? Great job! Look at you go, sport!
Trigger Warning: I’m going to blow your fucking mind twice in the next paragraph, but I’ll reward you for getting through it with a pretty picture of the sky.
If you watch the sky carefully all night long, you’ll notice the stars slowly move across the sky, similar to how the sun moves across the sky. I know what you are thinking, and no, the stars don’t go around us. Also, get this (here’s where I blow your freaking mind); those stars aren’t all the same distance away from us. Some of those stars are relatively close. So close, in fact, that the light from them gets to us in less than 5 years. Light travels at about 186,282 miles per second. To compare, a bullet from a 5.56 x 45 mm cartridge fires at just a little over half a mile per second. The nearest stars (with one exception) are dozens of trillions of miles away, That one exception (I’m going to blow your mind again) is the star called Sol, also known as our sun. The sun is much closer, which is why it’s so big and bright and warm in our sky. All of those little lights in our night sky are other suns, or massive clusters of suns, and we don’t see them during the day because our sun washes them out. Ever have some other idiot in the oncoming lane leave their high beams on? It’s the same idea.
So what does this have to do with Earth not being in the middle? A whole lot, actually. You see, those stars in our night sky are very consistent. They can be reliably used for navigation, because they are always exactly where we expect them to be, each night. They shift and slowly pitch their angle as they move across the sky depending on what hemisphere you are in and the time of year, but otherwise they remain in the same pattern, on the same path, every single night. Even the sun does this – it travels across the sky every single day, but throughout the year and depending on your location on the planet, it increases and decreases it’s pitch. If you sit out in that field every night for a decade, concentrating on the stars, they would never fail you. That is, until you notice the planets in our solar system.
A couple of the little lights in the sky will stand out. They won’t behave the same as the stars. Sometimes they will go with the flow and follow along with the rest of the stars. Other times it will seem like they are moving against the current. This pattern will ebb and flow as these lights speed up and slow down. Keep in mind you probably won’t be able to detect this over the course of a single night, or even several nights. It happens over days, weeks, and months. These lights in the sky are the other planets within our solar system. You’ll probably notice Venus, Mars, and Jupiter, and if you are really attentive and have pretty good vision, you’ll be able to see Saturn and Mercury with your naked eye.
If you were to track the movement of the planets across the backdrop of stars over the course of a year, you’ll see the planets go back and forth. When a planet appears to backtrack, it’s called a retrograde. Isn’t that weird? If something is moving in a circle around us, why would it change speeds? Should we just accept that it does and walk away? You bet your mama’s honkin’ fanny we don’t.
I know what you are going to say, “Uh, but Lynk, this proves nothing. If you model the planets to go around the sun in a circle, it doesn’t accurately allow us to predict all of the retrogrades unless the planets actually do change speeds lolz!!!”
There there, dum dum, you tried really hard, but back in the early 1600’s, a brilliant sumabitch named Johannes Kepler figured out that the planets didn’t need to go around the sun in circles, but instead observed that their paths were ellipses. This perfectly fits with what we actually observe in the sky. Don’t worry though, I know you aren’t some spiffed-up, book-readin’ egghead who will simply accept something that’s both observable and proven scientifically. Your corn-fed noggin requires even more of that savory proof. Grab on to your butts, because I’m going to lay it down for you with my homeboy Galileo Galilei, who invented the fothermuckin’ telescope.
Galileo Galilei was to science what Jesus Christ was to stubbed toes. With his dank-as-fuck telescope, he was able to get a closer look at Jupiter and observe four of it’s biggest moons. He noticed these objects circle around Jupiter, which clearly indicated that the Earth wasn’t the only object that junk spun around.
Speaking of junk spinning around, my boy Galileo then swung his junk in the other cardinal direction and pointed it at Venus. He noticed Venus had phases, much like our moon. We know that the phases of the moon are caused by light from our sun hitting the moon. If the moon is full, the sun is behind us. If we observe the right-hand side of the moon illuminated, the right-hand side of the moon is pointing towards the sun. If we can barely see the moon, it’s in its new phase, and it’s because the sun is basking the far side of the moon with it’s light, and the moon is (relatively) between the Earth and the sun. Humans figured this out before we invented Christianity. Galileo observed that Venus did the same thing, but when Venus was full, it appeared smaller. When Venus was in it’s new phase, the planet appeared much larger. When something appears larger, it’s closer. A full Venus means the sun is between us and Venus, while a new Venus shows Venus between us and the sun. HOLY FUCKING POTATO PANTS, THINGS GO AROUND THE SUN.
Of course, not everybody accepted this model, even after it was clearly proven. Big Church, historically known for strong-arming actual proof, banned the very idea that not everything revolves around the Earth until 1758. We’ve come along way though, because now we know that our sun isn’t even the center of anything. Unfortunately, one out of four of you still disagree, but at least you have been shown the light. Congratulations!