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A Matter of Scale


One of the things that fascinates me so much about the Universe is the incredible vastness of scale, distance and size.

On Earth we have virtually nothing to compare to the kinds of sizes seen in space. We look up at the stars and planets in the night sky but they are just bright points of light. Some brighter, some larger, some slightly different colors. But they’re still just points from where we stand. Even from space, seen by telescopes or by astronauts in orbit….still just points.

But they’re so much more than that, obviously.

Our planet Earth is big. (To us.) Most of the other planets are bigger. (To us.) Our star, the Sun, is much bigger still.

(Again, to us.)

Other stars, other suns, are even bigger than that. And this video gives a wonderful illustration of just what sort of scale is involved.

Featured on the Astronomy Picture of the Day this video by YouTube user morn1415 shows the comparative sizes of most of the planets in our solar system with our Sun, and then with other stars in our galaxy. It’s a great perspective on the actual scale of those little points of light in the night sky, and therefore the distances that must be involved as well. (And why it’s not so easy to find other Earth-sized planets!)

After all, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not very big at all. (Except to us.)

Enjoy!

Video by morn1415

*yes, there’s no Uranus and the planets (except Venus) are rotating the opposite directions. Don’t get too caught up in the example. 🙂

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About Jason Major

Jason is a Rhode Island-based graphic designer, photographer, nature lover, space exploration fanatic, and coffee addict. In no particular order.

Posted on February 22, 2011, in Deep Space Objects, Earth, Features, sun and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Wonderful, nothing like a visual to really offer a true insight into the scale of things ! Our generations have really been forced to reconsider our infinitely small place in the scheme of things, and no doubt there will still be more revelations to come – bring it on !

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  2. Great and informative stuff! However, the conclusion is unsupported by the comparison. That is not proof that Earth, or any of us, is not the center of the Universe. Although the number of objects in the Universe is uncountable, until we have REAL proof that we are the only reasoning souls that are aware that there is even a Universe, and that the Universe could have a center, we ARE at the center. All of the KNOWN Universe begins here on Earth.

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    • We may not have hard proof that Earth is not alone in the Universe as far as being a place where intelligent life exists, but we can be certain that Earth is not at the center. Earth is not the center of the solar system, nor the galaxy, and neither the Universe. These CAN be measured directly through the observations of the motions of said objects, as well as other similar objects. And at this point, the odds that life in some form exists somewhere else in the Universe are very high just due to the amount of planets we have located thus far. Whether it’s intelligent or capable of communicating with us is another matter, there may be logistical reasons – distance, time, lethal dangers of the Universe, etc. – that get in the way of that. But many scientists are confident that life has established itself somewhere else… it’s just a matter of time before we identify it.

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