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Kevin Holten: The Milky Way is amazing

Kevin Holten: The Milky Way is amazing


For years during roundup time, in early October, we gathered together a dozen riders to scour the buttes, ridges, gorges and ravines of the Badlands, 25 miles north of Medora, at the Little Missouri Cattle Ranch.

Of course, roundup is all about bringing cattle closer to home for the winter for the purpose of doctoring and pregnancy testing cows and then, eventually, separating out the calves and bulls.

After a dusty day in the saddle it’s not unusual for saddle-sore cowboys and cowgirls to gather together on the front porch of the main ranch house to sip on a cool beverage or two and look at the stars, which oftentimes provide an indescribable astronomical display; especially the Milky Way.

Now, you may not know it but the Milky Way was given its name by the Greeks many years ago. And we now know that it contains from 100 to 400 billion stars and maybe even up to 1 trillion, with at least a billion planets and, at the center of it all, a supermassive black hole sucking in the older planets.

Remarkably, when you look at the Milky Way at night, you are only seeing about 0.0000025% of the galaxy’s hundreds of billions of stars.

But just to give you an even greater sense of how big it is, in the 65 million or so years since dinosaurs died on earth, the sun has still only traveled about a third of the way around the Milky Way’s center.

In fact, the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years from edge to edge, which means that if a rocket could travel at the speed of light, which it can’t, it would still take it 100,000 years to go across the galaxy.

Not only that but since the time that OUR solar system was born, over 4.6 billion years ago, it has only orbited the Milky Way less than 20 times and made only 1/1,250 of a revolution since the origin of man.

All of that means the Milky Way is really big. But it is also very fast, rotating at a speed of 168 miles per second, which means that wherever it was an hour ago is now roughly 600,000 miles away.

So what’s my point?

My point is that there’s a lot of “stuff” out there, including, according to Texas Tech University chemistry professor Bill Poirier, the possibility of a parallel universe.

You see, Poirier discovered that particles at atomic and subatomic levels appear to be in two places at one time. And if you can be in two places at one time, that constitutes time travel.

Which begs the question, if you could travel back in time, where would you go? Would you attend your parents' wedding? Or go back and wager on a Super Bowl that you already know the outcome of? Or try to visit some uniquely historical event, like New York’s Times Square celebration of the end of World War II?

Then again, maybe what we should do is just go back 24 hours, to reenjoy what we forgot to enjoy, over and over again, every day, continually giving ourselves a double dose of life.

Because, as Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy once said, you can find poetry in your everyday life, including in your memory, in what people say to you and in what’s in your heart.

Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.


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