The universe is so huge that it boggles the mind when thinking about it. In fact, the true scale of the universe is so big that human brains cannot truly understand the full scale of it and perhaps never will.
The Universe Extends Tens of Billions of Light Years
The universe extends over many tens of billions of light years. For many people this is incomprehensible. Perhaps the easiest way to begin to grasp it is if it is broken down into smaller steps with the first of these steps being to gain an understanding of the size of Earth.
Start with how big the sun is it is around 100 times the size of Earth in diameter. Now consider the fact that when flying from San Francisco to Dubai on a non-stop flight it is about 8,000 miles. This is about the same as Earths diameter. Then consider the fact that the distance in-between the sun and Earth is even bigger, about 100 times bigger as it is roughly 100 million miles. This alone is overwhelming, but in reality, it is a measurement in astronomy. An AU or Astronomical Unit is the “radius of the Earth’s orbit around the sun.
Things get even more complex going on when talking about size and distance. The Voyager 1 spacecraft went into space in 1977, and it traveled at about 11 miles per second and was 137 Astronomical Units away from the sun. Then we come to think about the stars, and the closest of them is 270,000 Astronomical Units away, 4.25 light years in fact, and this is the Proxima Centauri star. To put this distance into perspective, the distance is equivalent to the distance of 30 million suns. This is truly overwhelming and difficult to grasp.
The Moon Is As Far As Humans Have Got In the Universe
While space exploration has sent men to the Moon, this is as far as man has got in space. This should come as no big surprise as the distance to the closest star is so vast. There are numerous stars twinkling away in the Milky Way, around 300 billion of them and the average distance between them is four light years. This is something that is difficult to comprehend when sitting on the front porch staring up at the night sky. However, the reality of it is that the Milky Way is vast with a diameter of about 100,000 light years.
Many of the stars in the Milky Way that are like the sun have orbiting planets, and many of these are at a distance and have a size from their parent that suggests they may be capable of hosting life. Many people believe that we are not alone in the universe, but finding the truth is another matter and an almost impossible task as it would take 75,000 years for a spacecraft to arrive at Proxima Centauri, which is the closest of the stars.
The Universe Cannot Be Explored until Suspended Animation Arrives
Space travel is one of the main scenarios in science fiction. TV shows and movies show humans traveling into far-reaching space and coming across aliens. The only way they can make people believe it is possible to go so far into the universe is by coming up with “states of suspended animation.” In the Alien movies, the humans went into suspended animation while they traveled into space. Of course, there was never a happy conclusion in these movies, so perhaps it is good that it is only science fiction. Another successful TV series “Star Trek” featured being able to travel at the speed of light or warp speed.
Centuries ago, astronomers mapped out the measurements of the galaxy, and the true scale of the universe became apparent. It was overwhelming and for the time being science fiction is the only way that humans can travel deep into space to reach other planets.
Light from Stars Astronomers See Has Travelled 13 Billion Years
Astronomers use telescopes to peer deep into the sky and pick up light that comes from galaxies that are distant. Bear in mind that the light picked up has traveled for around 13 billion years they are so far away. The nearest neighbor to Earth is an astonishing 2 million light-years.
The enormity of the universe comes when considering what lies outside the boundaries of the universe seen. Just because humans cannot see it, it does not mean there is nothing there. The universe extends forever, and this is something almost impossible to grasp. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a US astronomer, said ‘The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.’ For many people this is so true, it is unfathomable.
Earth Is Just One Small Planet in the Universe
Science fiction writers can only guess what is out there and many do not understand the vastness of the universe so they cannot expect to capture the true scale. Earth is only one small planet in the entire cosmos, and this is something that has been a challenge to comprehend by not only science fiction writers but also astronomers and everyday people alike. The reality is that the human brain is too small to be able to understand the full scale of the universe.