Guestpost #65: Bill Thanis – Ten things I’ve learned from visiting the galaxy

Bio: Bill Thanis is a Toronto improviser, technology wiz, and overall nice guy with a big moustache.

Note: In one of my more fanciful discussions with friends, I pointed out that it was impossible to ‘do’ the galaxy. If you could magically snap your fingers and teleport to a star system in no time, snapping your fingers once a second, for the 100 years or so that is your life, you will get to one tenth of one percent of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. So obviously some prioritization would be needed to see some of the more important sights.

So I provide here, in no particular order, the top ten places to go in the galaxy if I could. I would point out I am ignoring tiny insignificant details like habitability of the places in question. Imagine a bubble that contains all that you need to survive, is completely indestructible, and is able to remove all forces in the universe. If you can’t do this, why are you reading any further.

  1. The black hole at the center of the galaxy. I’m pretty sure its a boring site, but like Graceland it’s on the tourist trap list. It isn’t producing any power at the moment, which means its accretion disk is stable so you might see a LARGE solar system around a black volume.
  2. Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy. This is a small galaxy that has been captured by the Milky Way and is in the process of being consumed. Better get there fast because it will be gone within the next 100 million years or so. Since its on a polar orbit of the Galaxy, you should get a great view of the Milky Way.
  3. Messier 80 globular cluster. It’s like the Black Hole at the center of the Galaxy. It’s a tourist trap everyone needs to see. I’m pretty sure though, if you’ve seen one Globular cluster you have seen them all, so don’t bother heading to many of them.
  4. Palomar 5 stellar stream. The Palomar 5 cluster is in the process of being torn apart by the Milky Way and has a wonderful stream of stars in front and behind it. I’m not sure where the perfect vantage point to see the rainbow arc of stars is but it would be a great place to visit.
  5. Orion’s Arm. Okay technically you have already visited this place, but have you really? I’m pretty sure it’s like Los Vegas, you can go back endlessly and have a good time, and as you know, what goes on in the Orion’s Arm stays in the Orion’s Arm.
  6. Type Ia Supernova. I’m not sure where in the Galaxy to find one of these, but if you luck out enjoy.
  7. Betelgeuse. This star is a mere 430 to 650 light years away from home, but is definitely worth a trip. It’s a Red Super Giant, in the process of becoming a supernova and, who knows, possibly a black hole. But you better get there fast. The star has gone from a yellow, through the orange, and into the red stages in the last 2,000 years so it’s getting ready to blow. In fact it may have already blown and we are waiting for the light show to get to us.
  8. PSR B1937+21. This is a millisecond pulsar. It produces a pulse every 1.6 milliseconds, which makes it one of the fastest rotating objects in the Galaxy.
  9. SS 433. This star system is an X-ray binary. The primary is either a black hole or a neutron star (tell us when you get back), with an A-type companion. The companion is being eaten by the primary.
  10. Dark Matter Halo. Although this is hypothetical, since the rest of this journey is as well, you might want to stop by and seem some dark matter.

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