We live in a little solar system in one of the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. Our solar system, at its widest point (from one end of Neptune’s orbit to the other) is generally estimated to be 9.09 billion kilometres in diameter. More or less in the middle of 8 planets, their moons, a dwarf planet or two, and an asteroid belt, is the sun.

The surface area of the sun is 6.09×10^12km². That’s too many zeros to list, but it’s about 6000 billion square kilometres. By comparison, the planet Earth is 12,000 times smaller than that, with a surface area of about 510,000,000km². About 70% of that, or about 360,000,000km², is covered by our vast oceans.

Australia is an island continent; indeed, the only island continent. We were doing separation from other continents long before everyone else tried to do it by building canals. The surface area of this massive, arid place is just shy of 7,700,000km², which is about 15% of the planet’s total surface area. Perth, the city I live in, is the most isolated city in Australia and the second most isolated city on Earth (only Honolulu is more isolated). The urban spread of this city is constantly oozing ever outwards, but for the moment it covers 6,418km², which is, well, a minuscule percentage of the country’s surface and a tiny speck on the face of the planet.

Living on the West Coast of Australia has many benefits. We have most of the nation's most beautiful beaches, and we can see the sun set. How good a combination is that?
Living on the West Coast of Australia has many benefits. We have a large share of the nation’s most beautiful beaches, and we can see the sun set. How good a combination is that?

The photo above was taken at Bathers Beach, in Fremantle, on Friday last week. The beach would only be a couple of thousand square metres in size, but it’s enough. That whole area has been subject to a revitalisation in the past 24 months which has made it a much nicer beach, and the surrounds are much more attractive. It’s now a place many people like to go to swim and just chill out, whereas before there really just wasn’t much to attract people there.

We’ve had a lot of bushfires around the state in the past fortnight – some caused by lightning from surprise storms, and others which were deliberately lit in fiercely sociopathic acts of arson that make many of us incredibly angry. These have burnt through a few homes, and thousands upon thousands of hectares of bush and farmland. The city has been cloaked in a smokey haze for days which is only now beginning to lift. The smoke eventually drifts away, much of it out to sea.

The concept of scale wasn’t something I even considered when I took the photo, but looking at it now, the photo encapsulates so much more than just a sunset. Everything I’ve talked about above is represented in this photo – the small blip of land at the edge of the giant Indian Ocean, which goes over the horizon, the very edge of our small blue planet, and beyond. Even further out than the horizon is the sun, so far away, separated from us by 14 billion kilometres of the vacuum of outer space. But back at home, the sun’s light, which has already taken 8 minutes to get here (which is as long as it takes me to get to the local pub) is held up for just a few more moments by a shroud of smoke hanging heavy in the air. Smoke from fires too far away to see, but whose effects are only too obvious from the distortion of the sun.

Makes you feel a little small, doesn’t it?

I took the photo using the normal camera on my iPhone 5S, through a lens of my sunglasses. A rudimentary but effective filter, to be sure.

Post inspired by the Daily Post’s Photo Challenge, Scale.