If you really want a headache (the good kind), take a long look at this “photo”. No, this is not a photo of the cosmic microwave background radiation (which you can actually see for yourself if you change your television channel to one of the “fuzzy” stations) nor is it a collection of graphs of a cell structure. So, instead of telling you what it isn’t, how about I tell you what it is? This is, well… everything. Everything we can see and observe anyway. What you’re looking at is the “observable” universe. This particular map has a cellular appearance due to how the galaxies tend to collect into vast sheets and super clusters of stars that are surrounded by stunningly large voids in between them. You and I and everything we’ve ever known are smack in the middle there, along with our Local group, which is a part of the larger Virgo Supercluster. All of those other dots are also superclusters, each containing perhaps trillions of stars.
Since the speed of light is a constant in the vacuum of space, there is an outer edge to what is observable from Earth. That outer edge is defined by the objects within 14 billion years away (how old the universe is estimated to be), which is the time it would take for the light from these distant objects to reach us here on Earth. In this sense, the objects that are the farthest away from us are literally some of the earliest stars and galaxies in the young universe. it’s quite likely that the stars we’re observing are no longer burning and the ones that have formed from the gases expelled during the supernova of the previous stars are in another place entirely.
Since the universe has been expanding indefinitely since the big bang, the number of objects seen in the observable universe will shorten with time and it will appear as if the universe is much smaller than it does now - due to the light not having the proper amount of time to travel to the distant reaches of the universe. This expansion that’s going on in all directions is also the reason why our solar system appears to lie in the middle of the universe. In fact, every inhabited planet circling a distant star will look out into the universe and they will see that the universe is expanding away from them, giving the impression that they are located smack in the center of it all.
The “observable” universe consists of:
- 10 million superclusters
- 25 billion galaxy groups
- 350 billion large galaxies
- 7 trillion dwarf galaxies
- 30 billion trillion (3X10^22) stars (of which almost 30 stars go supernova per second)
According to some math that I have no desire to go into, if you imagine the size of the observable universe (13.7 billion light-years) to be that of one nucleus of an atom and compare that with the size of the unobservable universe, then the total universe is 10 billion times larger than the size of the unobservable universe compared to a nucleus of an atom AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO GET BIGGER.
You can look at those numbers here.
Keep in mind that it’s impossible for us to know the exact size of the unobservable universe, so the above is an estimation. It could be much larger than that!
What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?
Neil deGrasse Tyson, PhD: The most astounding fact… is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years they collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems… stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.
So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us.
When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like a participant in the goings-on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…
Strange how these “illegal” artworks always seem to contain more truth than any commissioned art I’ve ever seen
I love this.
Stuff happens, occasionally.
Well done, xkcd. View the full “Frequency” comic here, it’s truly mesmerizing. I had no idea there were so many Sagittarii named Amelia who were fans of carbonated beverages.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to continue waiting for my turn signal to synchronize with that of a stranger’s, longing for that unspoken, unknown connection, that most universal element of the human experience.
UNIVERSA MYSTERIUM by Santiago CARUSO / Ink and scratch over plastered cardboard, 26 cm x 35 cm
The universal vibration of the snake, as a path to go through the mystery of creation, from the unveiled to the obscure. The seven spirits of the universe, the seven planets of the antiquity, the seven keys of the scale that is the experience of the world. Music is the question, and can be an answer.