Perplexing and mind boggling, the universe has provided man kind with countless questions for millennia. In the early days of human kind the philosophical and intangible questions permeated the minds of early thinkers. Similarly mankind still questions the intangible by pondering atoms and their infinitesimal sizes. Now the modern day focus is on how the universe works.
It might be slightly misleading when I say the last sentence of that introductory paragraph. The sentence is more accurately telling of what the focus of this article is going to be. I often find myself pondering and imagining the shear scale of the universe. The simple size of the objects out there suspending in a sea of near nothingness is daunting yet fascinating.
We think of our selves as humans, as this all important all impacting species that can change so much. While that might be true for events here on Earth, in the grand scheme of things what happens here on Earth has little to no impact anywhere else. What happens on Earth stays on Earth. It is arguable that there is little evidence other than the amount of electromagnetic radiation that is emitted from our little rock, that anything is going on here. While climate change is evident in todays world from the outside we can see the changes on a global scale within the Earth’s atmosphere. The amount of CO2 in the air changes the spectograph of Earth.
With object being so far away we use technology to help us see whats there. A spectograph is the collection of light from a source to analyse and see the chemical make up of it. Scientists use this with planets atmospheres. As the light passes through the atmosphere and to the device it notices the wavelengths that are being absorbed and or reflected from the planets in question.
It is an interesting fact that every element on earth emits and absorbs specific wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum allowing us to identify them.
The Scale of the Stars
When we gaze up into the sky (hopefully with some protection) we see this blazing ball of hot plasma that is around 92,000,000 miles away. Even though this ball of hot gas is such a long ways away it still has a tremendous effect on our planet.
It’s light provides plants with the primary component of photosynthesis. That in turn feeds the animals that graze on plants and those feed the animals that eat the other ones. Without the light of the sun it is easy to say that the macro ecosystem and circle of life and major food chain would be thrown off its tracks resulting in a major mass extinction. That is obvious.
What isn’t obvious is the absolute size of such a celestial object. The sun is 864,337 miles in diameter. It would take roughly 100 earths to go from either side of the sun. That is gigantic. Colossal even! Or is it?
When we look out at the other stars we see that the sun is merely a little dot compared to some of the other stars out there. Our sun is one of countless others in the milky way galaxy and it is by no means large. The tool I am going to use to show you the scale of some of these stars is called Universe Sandbox 2 which is a game that you can pick up on Steam. It is a very well done simulator that does a good job of simulating orbits and fundamental phenomenon that occur in space. The shear scale that you can play with is amazing itself.
The above video shows you the scale of some of the stars in the universe. Of course the selection is very limited as there are plenty more than are shown in this video. It makes you wonder just how big the universe really is. Notice how when I switch the scaling to show the mass of the stars everything switches around. The size can be relative to temperature and what stage the star is in. Moral of the story don’t judge something by its size because it could actually be quite massive.
This is but a simple example of how large space is. Let me know if you would like to me to do some more videos with my articles. As sometimes seeing is better than reading it.
The Universe Itself
The universe is big. Like really big and it is getting bigger. With a radius of around 14 billion light years it is truly a expansive bit of real estate and its getting bigger. The universe is expanding faster than we can ever hope to get to the ‘edge’. Even with a ship that can go the speed of light it wouldn’t be able to reach the edge which is racing away at over faster than light speeds.
If you go within your mind and think really hard. The solar system is quite big itself. The edge of our solar system is roughly 122 AU. One AU or astronomical unit is equivalent to the distance between the earth and the sun. Which as we know is around 93 million miles. So there is a lot of space in our solar system. Now zoom out with your mind. Now you are in interstellar space. Between solar systems and other stars. Zoom out even further and you see the Milky Way Galaxy. Zoom out and you are in intergalactic space. In between galaxies.
The size is breathtaking and it begs the question will mankind ever leave the Milky Way Galaxy?