The Earth Goes Around The Sun. Really.

Some people interpret the Bible as saying that the Earth is motionless. For instance, some Psalms might imply this. And in particular, Joshua told the Sun (and not the Earth) to stop just so he could win one of his battles.

This was a perfectly respectable idea, in Biblical times. However, it has been clear for many centuries that the Earth does move.

There are many ways to detect this. The simplest one is to take a picture of some stars, and then six months later take the same picture again. If the Earth is moving, then the two pictures were taken from two different places, 186,000,000 miles apart. The pictures should be a stereo pair. If you put one picture in front of each eye, you should see a 3-D image.

This has been done. With a good telescope, many stars show parallax - that is, their "depth" in the 3-D image can be measured. The Hipparchos satellite has a really good telescope, and it has now measured the distances to the 1,000,000 stars that are within 500 light years of the Earth. A replacement satellite, FAME, is expected to measure 10 times further out. We will then know the distances to 1,000,000,000 stars.

In short, the motion of the Earth gives us simple explanations for a very large number of facts.

Last modified: 2 April 2000

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