Cosmic Perspective

Right now, at this very moment…

Gravity is holding you onto the side of a rock that is rotating around its axis at a speed of around 1,038 miles per hour (when measured at the equator). This rock is Earth, your home, and at this speed the Earth makes one full rotation once about every 24 hours.

The Earth is orbiting around a middle-aged, medium-sized star, our Sun, at a speed of around 67,000 miles per hour. At this speed, it takes the Earth about 365 days to make one full rotation around the Sun.

The Sun (along with all of its planets, asteroids, comets and chunks of ice and rock) is itself located in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way Galaxy, and it is orbiting around the center of the galaxy at a speed of around 550,000 miles per hour. At this speed, it takes the Sun and its satellites about 200 million years to make one full orbit around the galaxy. Since our sun is around 5 billion years old, it has made this journey about 25 times, and since it is a middle-aged star, it will make the trek about 25 more times before it goes nova and dies, burning Earth up in the process.

The Milky Way Galaxy contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and it is flying through space at a speed of about 1.2 million miles per hour, or about 340 miles per second.

The Milky Way is around 13.2 billion years old, almost as old as the Universe. It has several small satellite galaxies orbiting around it, and it is located in a cluster of galaxies known as the Local Group. The Local Group cluster contains the Milky Way galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy, along with 52 other smaller galaxies all orbiting around together in a group. This cluster is flying through space along with many other clusters of galaxies, in a large group called the Virgo Supercluster. This supercluster contains around 100 different galaxy clusters, and there are millions of galaxy clusters in the observable universe.

I’d like you to think about that, and then think about your tiny place in this grand universe. It tends to make one reevaluate how significant our daily frets and worries are, and how lucky we truly are to be a part of it all.

The following video is a fly-through animation of a small part of the observable universe consisting of around 400,000 galaxies. These are how the galaxies actually look and are shown in the correct positions as mapped by astronomers.

(click on YouTube icon to view in fullscreen on YouTube’s website)


~ by christhehumanist on August 18, 2012.

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