"With increasing distance, our knowledge fades, and fades rapidly. Eventually, we reach the dim boundary—the utmost limits of our telescopes. There, we measure shadows, and we search among ghostly errors of measurement for landmarks that are scarcely more substantial. The search will continue. Not until the empirical resources are exhausted, need we pass on to the dreamy realms of speculation."
— Edwin Powell Hubble
This Blows My Mind...
- An image of a minuscule section of the sky (about the size of a pencil tip at arms length) was captured by Hubble.
- This section of sky is about 1/24,000,000 the size of the whole sky!
- In this one image, about 10 thousand galaxies can be observed.
- Factoring this by the 1/24,000,000 figure, this means there is a rough estimate of 240 billion galaxies in the universe. 240 BILLION!!
- An average sized galaxy contains roughly about 100 billion stars (our own Milky Way galaxy is larger than average and has about 200 billion stars).
- Multiply these 240 billion galaxies by 100 billion stars and you get 2.4 × 1022 . That's 24,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. I don't even know what this number would be called in the english language. It's completely dumbfounding to me how large this number is).
- Take all these stars and consider the possibility that even a small fraction of them have planets orbiting around them. The number is still astronomical!
- Take all these planets and consider the possibility that even a small fraction of them are Earth-like. I have no idea what scientists have discovered as to what the probability is, but I would guess the number is still astronomical even if it's relatively rare.
- Finally, if you're into alien speculation, take all these Earth-like planets and consider the possibility that even a small fraction of them have the capability of sustaining life!
** One more point - even though the Hubble telescope has an insane zoom capacity, it still has limitations upon how far it can see. How are we to even know how much of the universe it's even capturing? For all we know, we've just barely touched the surface of how far out our universe goes.
On top of that, consider how insignificant our technological capabilities are to even begin to determine whether or not these countless planets have complex life on them. How many planets are we able to observe (and observe well enough to matter-of-factly assert that there is not complex life) on ANY planet within these 2.4 × 1022 stars, before our technological capabilities hit a brick wall? Not too many!
At this point in our technological development, we are still pretty limited to our own solar system to even begin to find any such evidence. We can't even visit other planets yet; all we can do so far is send robots.
If anybody can still sit there and claim that our tiny little planet, in our tiny little solar system, in our tiny little galaxy, is the only place in the entire universe of 2.4 × 1022 stars that has special significance, I just don't know what to tell them. I'll just be over here...picking up my jaw from the floor.