Did you have to memorize your address just in case you became lost?  That way you could tell your address to the police, or find your way home by following street signs.  An address is a very good thing to know.  Chances are you will never be lost in space.  Even if you are, the odds of some aliens flying by, picking you up, and knowing your language are even smaller.  You never know, though.  So let's teach you your space address.

If you live in a town without many lights, go outside at night and look up into the stars.  You may see a foggy white bar across the sky.  This is the middle of your space address.  The Milky Way is the galaxy you live in.  It is a little bigger than most of the rest of the galaxies in space.  Milky Way is the first name you want to tell any aliens you meet if you're lost.  Your galaxy is one of 3,000 called the Local Group, so it's not going to be easy to find.  You can tell them it looks like a spinning pinwheel of lights.  Who knows?  Maybe the aliens have tried the candy bar named after your address and know just where that is.

The Milky Way Galaxy, just out there spinning around.
Image by Nick Risinger

They fly you to that wheel of light across the sky and arrive at your home galaxy.  That's only the beginning of your address, though.  We still have a ways to go.  See, there are 300 billion stars in The Milky Way.  This is like filling the Grand Canyon with golf balls and trying to point out which one is yours.  A star, like our sun, is a huge ball of fire and gas out in space.  From the spaceship, they all look the same.  Like little shining lights.  Which one is home?

More stars than the MTV awards!
Photo by NASA

This is where your space address is really going to help.  Like I said, the Milky Way looks like a pinwheel.  There's a lot of light in the middle with a lot of arms curving out from the middle.  If the middle is kind of like the downtown of a city, you live in the suburbs.  The rim of a galaxy is the edge.  While we are not on the very edge, we are not too far from it.  The aliens can drive in a circle near the edge while you learn the last part of your space address.

Now that we have narrowed it down to millions of stars there's a better chance that the aliens can find your home.  Now it's time to tell them just where you live.  A location is the place where something is.  What else do you know about your space address?  You live by a sun that has eight planets.  The third one, Earth, has air you can breathe and water you can drink.  It looks like a blue and white marble.  Lucky for you, the aliens know just where to look. 

Now where am I?
Image by NASA

If you are ever lost in space (and you probably never will be), knowing your space address can help a lot.  If you can tell them that you live in the Milky Way . . . by a star on the rim . . . in a location where there are eight planets . . . then they may just be able to find Earth.  I just hope you know your country, state, city, and home address.  I cannot help you with that.


Universe Today.  "Facts About the Milky Way"  Universe Today, 2009.  <http://www.universetoday.com/22285/facts-about-the-milky-way/>

Astronomy For Kids.  "Galaxies"  Ducksters, 2011.  <http://www.ducksters.com/science/galaxies.php>

Science Minus Details.  "Is the Solar System Tilted Sideways?"  Science Minus Details, 2012.  <http://www.scienceminusdetails.com/2012/06/is-solar-system-tilted-sideways.html>