Facts So Romantic

Today Is “Galactic Tick Day”!

Photo illustration by Vikramdeep Sidhu / Flickr

Nearly a quarter of Americans still believe in Ptolemy’s idea that the sun goes around Earth. Yet, every year, these people presumably cheer on December 31 to mark the New Year, another successful trip of Earth around the sun. It’s likely not hypocrisy, just ignorance.

But if much of the general public still doesn’t get heliocentrism, then it seems likely we’ll have to wait a long while until people accept the more awe-inspiring fact that it’s not just the planets that revolve about the sun—the whole solar system itself revolves about the black-hole center of the Milky Way: one round-trip taking approximately every 225 million years.

To accelerate awareness of our solar system’s intragalactic journey, David Sneider, a 26-year-old software entrepreneur in San Francisco, along with three of his colleagues, founded “Galactic Tick Day.” Today, September 29, marks our most recent completion of a “galactic tick,” or one centi-arcsecond of our solar system’s galactic revolution. Celebrating this, he says, “can be perspective shifting.”

The paths the sun and planets of our solar system take as they revolve around the galaxy.Rhys Taylor

Despite our advances in space, much of people’s everyday thinking about the wider cosmos and its dynamics still often delves into New Age mysticism or pseudoscience.

A galactic tick takes place every 633.7 days, or 1.74 years (the next “tick day” will be on June 26, 2018). Although this is the inaugural celebration of the proposed holiday, Sneider says today is the planet’s 235th such tick (since Sneider and Co. decided, reasonably enough, that the first Galactic Tick Day should fall on the moment when we could first look more deeply into space—the day the patent for the first telescope was filed by Hans Lippershey on October 2, 1608.) If you’re counting since Earth formed 4.3 billion years ago, approximately 2.47 billion ticks have elapsed—or 19.1 complete revolutions around the Milky Way.

Sneider conceived of the idea during an existentially significant hike in Marin Headlands, California, earlier this year. “What does it mean to be alive and awake in the universe right now?” he wondered. Sneider realized that despite our advances in space, much of people’s everyday thinking about the wider cosmos and its dynamics still often delves into New Age mysticism or pseudoscience—for example, obsessing over a string of bad luck that resulted from Mercury being in retrograde, he says.

Galactic Tick Day, he believes, will help people move away from this and perhaps even experience instead a sort of quasi-“Overview Effect”—the overwhelming feeling of connectedness and at-ease astronauts experience when looking down at Earth from the moon.

So today, lose yourself in the fact that, at this moment, Earth is not just revolving around the sun, but at the same time jetting at a speed of 514,000 miles per hour around a supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy. 


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Matthew Sedacca is an editorial intern at Nautilus. Follow him on Twitter @matthewlevine13.

The lead photograph is courtesy of Vikramdeep Sidhu via Flickr.


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