I have been organizing my "Cosmic Notes" this week to refresh my memory on stars and planets and black holes. For a non-scientist and one who is notoriously mathematically challenged, this is actually quite an interesting project. I've begun studying maps of the closest neighboring stars to our solar system and envisioning a map between our "neighborhood" and the star systems that create the backdrop and setting for my novel(s).
Everytime I go back "into" space I am fascinated by the possibilities. This time around I'm learning about the habitable zone (the distance from a star that is neither too hot nor too cold, like Earth), the Heliopause, binary stars and pulsars. More on these and other delightful things later this week. For now, I wanted to share with you a link to Robert Krulwich's blog on the NPR site. By some mad coincidence, he and I have both noted something very strange about the formation of our solar system. Compared to other systems under study, ours is quite atypical - our planets don't line up like those of other stars, we only have one sun, etc. It makes me think of our knowledge of the universe is still quite limited, still Earth-centric, and still has room to grow. Space is so weird. Here's the link.
Also, here's an interactive video called 100,000 Stars, a sweeping demonstration of our solar system, its star-neighbors and where we are located in the Milky Way. Fascinating, breathtaking stuff. Enjoy.