As a travel destination, there is no place like home. After all, it is the only place where we actually “live like a local”. Over the next several weeks, with the help of some geeky astronomical calculations, we will be taking off on a long distance voyage without leaving our hometown of Reno, Nevada.
In the center of downtown Reno is the world’s largest composite dome. The 180-foot diameter “Legacy Dome” is the centerpiece of the Silver Legacy Resort Casino, and a stellar place to begin our whirlwind tour.
If the Legacy Dome is the center of Reno, and Reno is the center of our world, we can imagine that the dome is the size of our sun, and that the planets encircle the dome around Reno and beyond. In this way, by scaling down our solar system, we can venture out to the orbits of our planets without leaving the comforts of home.
Next week, we will start by visiting Mercury, the planet closest to the sun. In our invented solar system model, the orbit of Mercury encompasses all of downtown Reno. After that, we will stop each week at the next planet to explore another facet of our local area. Venus circles the University of Nevada, Earth crosses the Truckee River, and Mars passes right through the city of Sparks.
For a final glimpse of the Legacy Dome and downtown Reno, we will attempt to hike to the top of Mt. Rose, where the distant view of the city looms from beyond the asteroid belt. With Reno in the rear view mirror, we will then continue on to Jupiter and Saturn. The orbit of Jupiter passes through the historic mining town of Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, and the path of Saturn reaches out past the state capitol of Carson City to the shores of Lake Tahoe.
While home for the next couple of months, we will complete this quick fly-by from the center of our solar system to the distant rings of Saturn, while still living like a local, and sleeping each night in our own sleep-number bed. At the beginning of August, when we leave on our next month-at-a-time adventure, our long distance voyager is scheduled to run out of fuel, travel outside of radio range, and crash into the deep playa of the Black Rock Desert. Unlike our ill-fated space probe, we plan to return, because whether traveling to distant worlds or staying close by, whenever we go and then come back, we always find a travel destination like no other; home.