Full of stars

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy has once again blown my mind. If you never click another link on this blog, click this one. It’s a pan & zoomable hi res image of the Milky Way disc. There are a billion stars in that picture.

Pick any random spot and zoom in and feel amazed. I liked zooming in on the galactic core, but there’s no boring spots that I saw (except for the blacked out sections hiding the alien civilizations ;þ). There’s so much going on in there, and every pixel represents an area vastly larger than that ever occupied by humans throughout our entire history.

Naturally, it had to be taken from Earth, since we can’t get any cameras far enough away to make any difference. Which means there’s still much more of our galaxy not visible in that image.

There are at least one hundred billion galaxies in the universe.

Many people feel small when they consider images like these, comparing themselves to the vastness of the cosmos. Neil deGrasse Tyson once said that he feels big, aware of our connection to the stars and through them the universe.

Myself, I feel the same. I suppose I’m just more self-centered, I judge things against my own size, not my size against them. To me it’s more like finding a whole wing of your house that you didn’t know existed, or realizing that those mountains that you thought were the end of the world just had more world on the other side, or that across the ocean there are continents you’d never heard of before.

I remember reading a hundred year old book in which an explorer lamented that there were no new frontiers left, no new places to explore. When we compare ourselves to the overwhelming vastness of the universe it seems impossible to imagine that we’ll ever run out of new places to venture to. We could spend the rest of time until humanity goes extinct exploring and finding new places, and still not map it all out. It’s truly awesome.

Seriously, we have got to do something about that lightspeed issue.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on April 4, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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