Our Little Corner of The Universe

Pondering our place in the universe is difficult – comprehension relies on points of reference. Take our sun – sure it’s a star yet we would never call warmth or light “star light” – stars are something a child wishes upon, they live outside the realm of sunlight. We feel the sun’s warmth, watch it rise and fall, take it for granted as air and water. Our sun is tangible, we see it every day – grasping what lies beyond our little corner, visualizing the universe in all its enormity without blowing a fuse – that’s the tricky part.

“Baby steps” elude when discussion of universal scope enter the ring. That said – I’ll give it a try. On a clear night, away from city lights with a dark sky void of moonlit interference – systematic dedication might result in counting 8 or 9 thousand stars. A friend shows up with respectable binoculars and perhaps 200,000 is possible.  A good backyard telescope materializes and upwards of 15 million stars blow your mind. In reality – our Milky Way galaxy is home to over 300 billion stars.

Ours is an average sized galaxy – measuring about 120,000 light years from end to end, ( one light year is approximately 9.5 trillion kilometres). Astronomers estimate over 170 billion galaxies in the “observable” universe – stretching outward from us for 14 billion light years in every direction.

Professor Marshall McCall of York University published a “map” of  galaxies within 20 million light years of planet Earth.

Image credit: Marshall McCall / York University

View larger. | A diagram showing the brightest galaxies within 20 million light years of the Milky Way, as seen from above. The largest galaxies, here shown in yellow at different points around the dotted line, make up the ‘Council of Giants’. Image credit: Marshall McCall/York University


The universe can’t be defined – exceeding imagination being the only definition I can offer. All I ask is that you “look at the damn sky” and at least try.

10 thoughts on “Our Little Corner of The Universe

  1. Compared to the size of our town, the universe is, ehhh, very big beyond our understanding.  As you say.

    Yet, I have no difficulty visualising a Big Bang and the entire expanding universe in a single thought image. Likewise, I can picture the quantum innards of an atom and the incredibly small comes in my reach.

    The notion of distance and size require their own ponder but the relationship between the infinitely small (zero) and the infinitely large (infinity) is “one divided by the other”. It is where the dog catches its tail. 

    So huge distances, bring them on; I’ll stick them under my fingernail. Baby steps!

    • Bring them on indeed 🙂 I can picture that infinitesimal moment when stars collapse in extraordinary fury, I have no difficulty with expanding cosmos, black holes or the concept of dark matter. Hurry up and unravel the fourth dimension – whatever it takes to get us from here to there – perception is everything 🙂

  2. There was an explanation of the Big Bang for us pedestrians on the news yesterday. To be honest, I think it sounds more ridiculous than the god God weaving everything together in 7 days. I have faith that the people who understand more than me are right though, which makes me just as smart as a 12th century peasant. Anyway, thank you for your posts with fascinating facts and urging us all to get out and stare at the night sky. I grew up in an area with very little light pollution (in fact a dark skies area in the UK) and was used to regular shows. On the odd occasion I get to a proper glimpse of stars these days, I have a feeling of severe longing to move out of the city.

  3. Yes, all this and Jesus still has time to talk to a few people, some of whom have lost their car keys or might be stuck in a traffic jam, yet he’s just too damn busy to sort out several thousands kids that die every day of malnutrition.

    ‘God’help us all.
    Great post!

    Oh, and I do look at the sky.
    We get a pretty good view up here, being several thousand metres above sea level and the Arks Spot one of the highest in the suburb.

      • On the evenings when we can see the sky our little compound is wonderful for stars. We have little Florence about 10 miles away and that’s the only town for 15 miles in any direction. We have what I guess is about 5 acres of OPEN sky in the middle of the forest and when we can see the stars the sky is just alight! However — we can only see an arc about 90º because the trees are so tall we can’t seen any horizons, or even any of the arc between the horizon and 45º up. all the way around. Now I have to get a star map 🙂

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