“A broad and ample road, whose dust is gold,John Milton: The Poetical Works of John Milton, 1824
And pavement stars—as starts to thee appear
Soon in the galaxy, that Milky Way
Which mightily as a circling zone thou seest
Powder’d with stars.”
Seeing stars…generally an expression that denotes a special event; a time when there is a sparkle in our lives. (There are some cartoon characters that see stars when they get thumped on the head; in our experience a thump on the head causes blurred vision, unconsciousness and/or bad headaches – no stars to go with the lump.) Why do we reference stars when we are joyful? They sparkle, they twinkle. They surround us at night and make us realise we are not alone. They come in a variety of colours, and even wash across the sky in a milky highway that arcs overhead. Of course, these days the stars aren’t as bright as they were in millennia past – nothing to do with the stars, of course, they are as twinkly as ever – it’s all due to what astronomers call ‘ambient light’, the light that surrounds city dwellers from millions of bulbs, tubes, LED’s, fires and other man-created sources of illumination. For a proper view of the night skies, head out into the ocean on a moonless night…(on a boat, of course. Swimming out is not recommended. Apart from the fact that sharks feed at night, you’ll have seawater in your eyes, making things blurry.
Our Milky Way, the residence of the bulk of the visible points of light in the night sky, is an amazing place. In the very big picture, it’s just one billions of galaxies, but to us it’s home. The numbers that represent the size and extent of our galaxy are difficult for mere mortals to comprehend; they look big, admittedly, but it’s unlikely that any of us can truly picture the magnitude. For a start, the Milky Way (what a beautiful name, and its provenance needs no explaining) is a barred spiral galaxy, and is estimated to be in the region of 200 000 light years in diameter, with a maximum width of about 2 000 light years in its four spiralled ‘arms’. The bulge in the centre of the galaxy is much wider – from the top it would look like a ‘bar’, hence the name – and at its core is a super-massive Black Hole, lurking like a vacuum cleaner in the centre of a huge dusty stadium. Around this dark phenomenon are somewhere around 400 billion stars, and these are just the ones we can see. The neutron stars and 100 billion or so planets are all invisible, except to the geniuses who measure gravitational anomalies. The sun, and the stars that we know in our night sky and have formed into named constellations, fall into the Orion-Cygnus arm of the Milky Way, and are our closer neighbours.
Well, we say close. Anybody who has given the idea of light-years some thought will realise that this is a relative concept. Given that a quantum of light is travelling at 300 000 kilometres per second for a full earth year, a light year is 9.46 trillion kilometres long. Our nearest neighbourly star, Alpha Centauri, is a mere 4 light-years away, so at current spaceship speeds we would take around 80 000 earth years to get there. Extrapolate that to points more distant in the Milky Way, and it becomes fairly obvious that unless some bright spark rocket scientist finds a way to exceed the speed of light by a considerable margin, (and break the immutable laws of physics in the process), space travel beyond our solar system will remain a science fiction dream.
At Waterfront Charters we have a better plan, a way to see stars, dream big and enjoy life here on our amazing planet. If you have a starry-eyed occasion coming up; a wedding, an engagement party, a special birthday…why not celebrate it under the umbrella of our Milky Way, out on the Atlantic Ocean? Our range of luxurious catamarans lend themselves to special events, and as floating venues they offer the ultimate in both daylight and night time views. Our sun may only be a G dwarf star, and one of 400 billion other nuclear events in the Milky Way, but it’s ours, and it is magnificent. Watch it set over the Atlantic horizon as you and your guests toast your special event, then watch the other 399 999 999 999 suns as they slowly light up the heavens, with a few errant planets cruising among them. Whether you choose a sunset cruise, a daylight adventure or a combination of the two, with a Waterfront Charters catamaran charter you can put together the perfect event at the perfect venue, and we’ll help you every step of the way.
You’ll have difficulty working out which stars are in your eyes and which are in the heavens.