Guide to Doing Nothing: Adler Planetarium

Words: Shannon Shreibak
Images: Courtesy of The Adler Planetarium and NASA

June 13 2016

There exists in this world an awesome Kimya Dawson song called “I Like Giants” about dealing with insecurity and grappling with the idea of having place in the world. The first lines of it go, “When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side of the road, turn out the lights, get out, and look up at the sky. And I do this to remind me that I’m really really tiny in the grand scheme of things.”

Dawson’s sentiment hits home with many (most? almost all?) of us. Fact of the matter is, sometimes you just need to feel small. The enormity of all life’s responsibilities – jobs, family, bills, jobs, interpersonal relationships, responsibilities you never agreed to, jobs – is sometimes too much to bear. But getting in the car and driving out of town, far enough until the city is just a glorious globe of light pollution in the distance, stopping on the side of the road and looking up somehow grounds us, makes us feel self-aware in a non-terrifying way.

Understanding that we are small, that there are so many other people and creatures and worlds out there lets us push our own problems to the back burner, even if only for a short time. Sure, that pile of paperwork due two days ago will still be on your desk tomorrow, your dog will still need surgery and you’ll have to eventually listen to the three voicemails your mom left you this afternoon, but all of that can wait while you stare blankly into the vastness of the universe.

And if, by chance, you live in a city and haven’t seen the night sky in four years, take a trip to your local Planetarium and spend an afternoon with wonder. We’ve asked our friends at Chicago’s historic Adler Planetarium to give us some facts about the universe to put some perspective on the stresses of our day-to-day.

When you can’t help but fret about the impact you’ll make on the world, don’t forget… Footprints on the moon will last millions of years.

In order for a footprint to be erased from the Moon, there must be an atmosphere and weather present—two things that ol’ Luna does not retain. No matter how insignificant your actions may seem, it’s very important that you commit to them—the worth of that action won’t be evident until it’s fully realized. After all, you could be the next set of footprints on the moon (or maybe just the wet pavement of the sidewalk outside your apartment but, hey, a footprint is a footprint.)

When you’re counting the seconds until the work day is over, remember… A day on Venus is longer than a year on Venus.

A lap around the Sun for Venus equates to 224.7 days on Earth, but it takes 243 Earth days to clock in a full day on Venus (read: complete one revolution on its axis). And while quantifying time in such a way won’t actually make it go by faster, it will put your boring desk job in perspective. No one on Venus even has a job.

When the dismal weather is dragging you down, it’s important to know…Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is a hurricane twice as big as Earth.

While Scientists may not know exactly how long ago the Great Red Spot has took residence on Jupiter, it can be said with certainty that the size of the crimson storm is two to three times the size of Earth. It’s all-too-easy to become absorbed in the minutiae of Earthling life— so no matter how big a real or proverbial storm you’re weathering, remember that there are plenty more worlds (and storms) brewing across the galaxy. 

When you stare at your water glass looking for the answer, recall that… Saturn would float in that water.

Well not that particular glass, but you get it. Considering Saturn is 70 percent as dense as water, and anything less dense than water will float in it, the Ringed Planet would make one cosmic buoy – that is if there were ever an ocean large enough to hold it.If you happen to be in Chicago, the Adler’s terrace is a prime spot for contemplating the weight of water and—even better—your place in the Universe. The waters of Lake Michigan glistens like glass, sunlight scatters into golden prisms across the horizon, the cacophony of chirping birds and children and skidding bike tires…so serene that it seems like anything could float in water.

When you’re worried that nothing will ever change, remember… Pluto used to be a planet.
Before being demoted to a mere exoplanet by Mike “Pluto Killer” Brown, Pluto was riding high as Planet Nine. Before being demoted to a mere exoplanet by Mike “I Hate Pluto” Brown, Pluto was riding high as Planet Nine. But you know what, no one can tell Pluto what it is and is not, and no one can tell you that either. Pluto can still be a planet if it wants, and you can still be an artist if you want, so do your thing. Have some PMA and don’t let the haters get you down.

If you’re in the Chicago area, don’t forget to pay a visit to The Adler Planetarium. 

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