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Myriads of Blazing Suns

The Southern Cross

How to Tell the Time

An Infallible Direction Indicator

Outstanding Stars

Stars of the Centaur

Strange Aboriginal Folklore

A Glowing Mass of Stars

Super Suns of the Heavens

The False Cross

The Southern Triangle

Ara and The Scorpion

Other Stars



Myriads of blazing suns

On a clear, moon-less night there ap­pear to be countless thousands of stars visible. This is actually so, for that glowing band of light, the Milky Way, is the combined effect of millions of blazing suns, so remote that they are not individually visible. Anyhow, it is doubtful whether, even under most favorable conditions, more than 3,000 stars can be seen as separate points of light at one time. From a back garden, probably 1,000 would be a more likely figure, for smoke and glare obscure the fainter ones.

According to one aboriginal story, the stars came from the burning brand of the Old Man of the Sea—an ancestor of great fame and antiquity. The occasion was when, in pursuit of a beautiful maiden, who escaped him, he dived into the sea carrying a flaming torch.

Scientific research reveals that all the stars are suns giving out light and heat. Our own Sun is quite an ordinary star, even though it can contain a million Earths; and it would appear quite in-significant if it were as far away as some of the brightest stars.

All the stars are inconceivably far away. It takes light, travelling at 186,000 miles per second, a little more than 8 minutes to reach us from the Sun, while more than four years elapse before the light from Alpha Centauri, possibly the nearest of the stars, arrives here. In astronomical parlance, the star is 4.3 light years away. In miles, the distance is about 25 million million, and this is one of the nearest `stars.

It is difficult to appreciate this enormous distance. Possibly the fastest thing we have seen near at hand is a jet plane travelling at some 400-500 miles per hour. This could go from Sydney to Melbourne in the short space of an hour; it would take three weeks to journey as far as the Moon; over 20 years to reach the Sun; while, to cover the distance to the nearest known star, it would take about six or seven million years.


Wonder Book of Knowledge