Daaaaaad, how big is the Universe? As intrepid parents we need to know the answers to such mind boggling questions.
Short answer: Massive, enormous, huge, gargantuan (other words for big available). The closest neighbouring star is Proxima Centauri, which at conventional speeds would take an eye watering 18,000 years to reach. Better set off now, aye?
Our Own Solar System and Galaxy
If you imagine the Sun is a football, then our solar system would be around a mile across. On this scale, Proxima Centauri would be 5,000 miles away.
In reality, the Sun is 93 million miles from us, that’s 150 years away at 70 mph. But on a galactic scale the Sun is actually stepping on our toes.
The Milky Way is 100,000 light years across. That means it would take light, the fastest thing in the universe, 100,000 years to get from one side to the other. There are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone!
The Number of Galaxies in the Universe
We should also consider the number of galaxies. The Hubble telescope has shown there are at least 200 billion. That’s just the ones we can see.
The Canis Major dwarf galaxy (status disputed) is 25,000 light years away from the edge of our own and that’s all empty space! There’s a problem with our understanding here though, as I’ll explain, we can’t actually see them all!
How Big is the Universe – We Don’t Know for Sure!
The visible Universe is a different concept to the total size of our Universe. The problem is that in the 14 billion years since the big bang, there hasn’t been enough time for light from the furthest reaches of the Universe to reach us!
What we do know is that the Universe is expanding. Therefore, those outer reaches are getting further away from us all the time.
How Big is the Universe?
Bloody huge. Almost too large to comprehend and it also doesn’t help that we can’t actually see all of it. But at least you now have what you need to blind your little wide-eyed question slingers with science!
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