Earth . . . a dust mote

Let’s get a perspective of how small Earth is compared to the rest of the universe. This quotation is from Karl Gibberson, The Wonder of the Universe, pp 40, 41:

In terms of size, our planet is nothing of consequence – a dust mote suspended in light rays from a distant and unremarkable star . . . The earth, in the context of our solar system, is indeed a dot – less than the period at the end of a sentence. But it gets worse. Our solar system, in its larger context, is also a dot.

Our sun is but one of some 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy – 200 billion, not million. That vast sphere centered on the sun and reaching to the Oort cloud(a hypothetical area containing comets in the outer reaches of our solar system, RJK) is just one solar system. The Milky Way is a flattened assemblage of stars with spiral arms spinning slowly. To the naked eye it can appear like a glowing white smear across the night sky – Hiawatha’s “broad white road.”

The Milky Way galaxy presents us with an unimaginably greater set of distances . . . Those vast distances within our solar system that we can never traverse are all contained within a tiny speck within our galaxy. Each star, to the best of our knowledge, may have its own system of satellites (planets, RJK) orbiting about it, a system that may be more or less like our solar system – we just don’t know, except in rare cases.

Imagining two hundred billion stars is impossible. I once brought a two-pound box of salt to my astronomy class and dumped it all over the floor in spiral swaths, shaped vaguely like the spiral arms of the Milky Way. In this demonstration each individual grain of salt represents a star, with a possible system of satellites around it. Every single grain of salt is a star and the distance between adjacent grains is measured in trillions of miles. It is mindboggling to envision so much salt and think of each grain as a huge solar system . . .

The nearest star to us, in our part of the Milky Way, has the exciting name Proxima Centauri and is over 25 trillion miles away.

God, who formed the seemingly infinite expanse of the universe, also created blood to clot, and the microscopic embryo in the mother’s womb to form. How amazing!

RK

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