Written on 26 August 2010
After reading about the new star system that had just been discovered a few days ago at a distance of 127 light years from Earth, I tried to explain to my sister the concept of a light-year which, as I’m sure many of my readers know, is the distance light travels in a year at roughly 300,000 metres/second (186,000 miles/second). Sister couldn’t imagine that, or what it had to do with anything anyway, so I tried explaining that the light reaching West Yorkshire from the Sun takes about 8 minutes to reach us. That didn’t help either. When I told her that the entire universe is only approximately 13.7 billion years old, I had to get the aspirin out (not literally).
That thought (the one about light years not aspirin) was still with me when I looked up today’s date, 26 August, in my diaries of years past. First, I found and then scanned the entry for 1954. That day in 1954 was a very emotional day for Flight Lieutenant Emms, one of my squadron commanders at RAF Locking during my wireless training at No 1 Radio School. It was Emms’ last day in his RAF service which had started way back in 1920. To those of us young airmen on parade that day, 1920 seemed as far back as the Dark Ages. "It’s even further back than the Battle of Britain”, muttered the airman standing alongside me on the parade. (We often used the 1940 'Battle of Britain' for comparing dates and ages.)
Below: Part of my diary for Thursday 26 August 1954. NB 1699 denotes this was my 1,699th diary entry and 374 indicates that this was my 374th day in the RAF.
I then discovered that several stars in the Virgo Constellation are a mere 56 light years away. So, anyone living on one of the planets of one of the stars in Virgo with the technology to see events that happen on Earth will, any minute now, be able to see Flight Lieutenant Emms and the rest of the recruits who were on that parade at Locking!
I won't be around for any response of course but I'll leave my diaries somewhere accessible.