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The Earth in Space

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History cannot occur in vacuum. As a series of events, it must have a place in which to occur. And how that place is arranged affects how history may develop. Even how we perceive our place to be may affect how history will proceed. Ultimately the Earth provides not only place, but a sense of context as well.

In the beginning, Earth was seen as the floor of universe, upon which all else stood. With the sky being nothing more than a roof upon which to hang the moon and stars, and across which the Sun must travel from unknown end of the world to the other. Even after centuries of astronomical observation of the night skies, the Babylonian and Chinese astronomers of early history were convinced that Earth was inherently flat.

Not until Classical times, in the Mediteranean and Indian civilizations, was it even suspected that Earth might be spherical in form (possibly first discovered by sailors observing the dip of the horizon). Even then, natural philosophy kept Earth solidly within the center of the universe. While a few individuals in several civilizations (Hellenistic, Babylonian, Indian, Islamic) suggested the idea that the Earth may be orbiting the Sun, it was not until the 15th century that Copernicus produced models that clearly showed the Early circling around the Sun. It was only Galileo's development of the telescope in the 17th century that eventually brought about a general acceptance of Copernicus being correct.

With the development of the telescope came a different way of looking at things. Rather than theorizing at what an object in the sky might be, one could actually begin looking at the object itself. Actually able to see and examine things, rather than theorise about the inaccessible, one can see that the Earth is round, not flat; orbiting about the Sun, and not center of the Universe. And that changes our perceptions of what is possible.

As we began to explore the skies in greater detail, so too we began to explore the Earth itself. The science of Geology revealed elements of what may be called "The Record of the Rocks". Studied systematically through the 18th century, it was not until the 19th century that we began to appreciate the scale of time that is represented by these fossils. It was against a fair amount of resistance that humanity finally accepted that existence goes back not six thousand years, but closer to hundreds of millions of years.

So what do we know about the stage, upon which human history has been playing itself out? Earth is a spinning globe circling about a rather small star in a great emptiness called space. Within that emptiness are other stars, some smaller, most larger. As a planet, Earth has a number of neighbors orbiting about the Sun, as well as a companion moon formally known as Luna.

Earth has a diameter of just under 8,000 miles. Its' surface is rough and uneven, with much of it covered with water. The atmosphere that covers the Earth can support life for about 4 miles vertical. And there is a wide variety of habitat ranging from forested to desert.

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