We know enough about the movement of stars and planets to shine a light on our veterans each year.
Below is the Anthem Veterans Memorial in Anthem, Arizona. Each year at 11:11 AM, the Sun lines up perfectly with the ellipses in the five pillars of the memorial, putting the United States seal in a perfect spotlight:
The five pillars each represent the five branches of the United States military, and vary in size based on their precedence within the military. The bricks are inscribed with the names of service men and women, and the red bricks, white pillars, and blue sky symbolize the colors of the American flag. The ellipses are placed in such a way that it doesn’t illuminate the seal until 11:11 AM on Veterans Day.
Here’s another angle from another time and day:
These photos have made the viral rounds before, and many people have noted that they were disappointed because the pillars didn’t contain some kind of lenses which produced the seal on the ground at a certain time — Raiders of the Lost Ark-style. Though the seal is on the ground year-round, it is still impressive that it is specifically spotlighted at the same time each year. That’s because we have the science to predict the movement of stars and planets.
Without getting into extreme cases like moving at near light-speed or orbiting a black hole, the celestial bodies in our solar system move according to Newtonian physics — the equations and laws developed by Isaac Newton. These principles explained why the planets moved the way they did — gravity — but they weren’t the first laws describing the motion of planets based on data. Johannes Kepler’s laws of planetary motion came before Newton’s laws, and were derived from unprecedented observations from yet another astrophile with a nose made out of gold (yes, literally), Tycho Brahe. Using the science and mathematics of these thinkers together, we are able to predict the positions of all the planets relative to the Sun for any point in the future (barring any “perturbations” that influence the planets other than gravity).
The laws of Newton and Kepler are so precise that let us predict solar and lunar eclipses for the next thousand years, for example. In fact, it is this ability to precisely track planets and predict eclipses which allowed Sir Arthur Eddington to perform the first experimental test of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which tweaked Newton’s ideas to include relativistic effects, becoming the theory that truly described the movements around stars.
Now, all that science of planetary motion lets us illuminate our veterans. That’s a cosmic tribute if there ever was one.
You can see more photos of the Anthem Veterans Memorial here.
IMAGES: Mike Spinelli