DinosaurBob (dinosaurbob) wrote in 14000_bfe,

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Time is relative

It's been a while since I last posted. One might forgive me for taking so long since I -- we all -- have been sort of busy lately, what with suddenly being plunked down in the middle of, well, prehistoric Ann Arbor.

There isn't even a Starbuck's anymore. That's how wacky this has all become.

We've learned a few things in the past weeks. First and foremost, that we're not in Kansas anymore. But we are, so far as we can tell, still in Ann Arbor. Or we're where Ann Arbor will *be*. That's one of the other interesting things: It seems that it isn't so much a question of *where* we are; it's a question of *when* we are. I was looking up on that first night, partly out of boredom, partly out of frustration, partly out of habit, when I noticed that things up there didn't look quite right.

I found Heather in all of the confusion and after we talked -- and cried a little -- I told her to look up and tell me what she saw. She's got a good sense of the night skies from all of those trips with the Astronomy Club so she saw it too. North wasn't north anymore -- it was kind of south. At least that's where the North Star, Polaris, was. Where we thought north should be sat Vega, in Lyra.

Here's a little Astronomy 101 lesson, part one, for you: The Earth's axis, as you may or may not know, points to Polaris. It's the star that guided the ancient mariners through the dark ocean nights. One ca determine many things by Polaris, most notably the direction north and the latitude the observer is at. It's trivial for anyone with knowledge of the night sky to look up, determine where Polaris is, off the tail of the Little Bear, and find north. Except for now.

After talking to Heather for a while, we decided to see if our suspicions were right. We managed to find two camera bodies attached to microscopes, some film, and one lens that fit one of the cameras. OK, so it wasn't going to be as speedy as we'd hoped to find this out.

First, we pointed the camera at Polaris and locked the plunger down and settled in for a 20 minute exposure. Then we did the same for Vega. If there's any good to be said for our present condition, it's that the night sky is totally without light pollution. I can't say that it makes me all happy and fuzzy inside, no matter what DarkSkies talks about.

After the exposures, we went to the darkroom and developed the film. After it was developed, we put it in the enlarger to make prints. We didn't really need to do that, though. The image of Vega was pretty clear, near the center of the frame. A smallish curve of light. The stars radiated outward from there with progressively longer curves. It was a pattern we'd seen dozens of times before, that we had made on our own. Take a camera, point it at the North Star (where ever that is) and lock the shutter open. Because the North Star is at the point where the Earth's axis extends into the sky, it won't appear to have moved, or at least moved very much, in comparison to the other stars, which are further out and rise and set. But in this picture, it was Vega, not Polaris, which was still and the stars of Lyra and Cygnus made progressively longer streaks the further out from Vega they were. The picture of Polaris and Ursa Minor where simply streaks on the film, roughly parallel, showing stars that weren't even remotely pointing north.

That's the other part of the Astronomy 101 lesson. Part II: The Earth is also spinning like a slowing down top. As a top slows down, it starts making larger circles as it looses speed. So it starts wavering. Making little circles as it slows. The Earth is doing the same thing, only on a much longer timeline. So the imaginary line that stretches infinitely into the heavens traces a lazy circle around the sky, pointing to a new spot in the heavens. The entire circle takes about 26,000 years to complete -- it's called precession, by the way. Since Lyra is a little more than 180 degrees in the sky from Polaris according to this circle, this means that a little more than one-half of the precession has happened. 13,000 to 15,000 years. Since the plant life and the animal life that we've seen looks more primitive and less specialized than it does advanced and more diversified, we can only assume that, somehow, we -- most of Ann Arbor -- apparently all of the University -- has been transported more or less 14,000 years into the past.

I have to cut this off for now. Electricity is a precious commodity and I have little to use. My knowledge as a computer jockey is useless now, though my abilities as a logistics person and military background has at least helped. I will continue this journal as best as possible for as long as possible. I will probably have to convert it over to paper, as that will last much longer, but this is convenient and familiar for the moment.
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