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Flat Earth believers learn real science at space agency

News Desk
News Desk

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, January 10, 2017 | 09:25 am
Flat Earth believers learn real science at space agency

A view of a partial solar eclipse. Late last year, representatives of the Flat Earth Society paid a visit to the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) office in Rawamangun, East Jakarta. (NASA/Philip Calais)

Contrary to popular belief, there are some people who believe that the Earth is flat instead of round. A Facebook group dedicated to this belief, named the Indonesian Flat Earth Society, has more than 19,600 members, kompas.com reports.

Late last year, representatives of this Flat Earth Society paid a visit to the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN) office in Rawamangun, East Jakarta. Welcomed by the agency's astronomy and astrophysics research professor, Thomas Djamaluddin, they discussed everything under the sun, including solar eclipses, satellites, gravity and the astronomical algorithms of Jean Meeus. 

After the meeting, Thomas uploaded a 80-minute video containing the discussion, as well as the questions frequently asked on his blog.

(Read also: Einstein's right again: Scientists detect ripples in gravity)

The following are some of the questions and answers related to the "Flat Earth" misconception.

Satellites

During the visit, the group asked about satellites. Thomas explained that LAPAN currently operates three satellites and showed the launching of the LAPAN A2 satellite in India. 

In the video, the rocket, which carried the satellite, was seen to leave the Earth on a parabolic path. Although it flew vertically in the beginning, the Earth's gravitational pull caused the rocket to move in a parabolic curve.

Satellites orbit in such curve because the Earth is roughly the shape of a sphere.

The sun's apparent size and the distance between the sun and Earth

In the beginning of the video, Thomas mentioned that the distance between the sun and Earth is about 150 million kilometers. As for the sun's photos that make it look close to Earth, these photos were taken by telescopes on the Earth or on satellites.

Some people argued that the sun looks bigger in the morning. Thomas stressed that the sun's size remains the same throughout the day; the apparent difference is created by the Earth's atmosphere refracting the image.

Gravity

One of the Flat Earthers questioned the existence of gravity. Thomas, referring to the principles of Archimedes and Isaac Newton, replied that gravity does exist. Every celestial body exerts a gravitational force of varying degrees, which makes small objects remain on Earth and makes the planets orbit around the sun. (jes/kes)

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