• Moiya McTier

Astronomy Fun Fact #81

Since astronomers study things that are so large and distant, we often think in log scales (base 10). That means we think in terms of powers of 10, or "orders of magnitude."

For example, instead of saying something has a mass of 100 billion kg, we'd say it has a mass of 10^11 kg, and we'd say that it's 3 orders of magnitude more massive than something with a mass of 10^8 kg.

The cool thing about log scales is that it changes the way number lines look. Points that would be very far apart on a number line in linear space, like 1 and 1000, are actually just 3 points away from each other in log space.

Last night it randomly occurred to me that the midpoint between 1 and 1000 on a log scale is 10^1.5, which is about 30! If you don't believe me, check out the number lines below.


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