December 19, 2014

How Big Is Earth Compared to the Universe?

Think about Earth.  The oceans.  The mountains.  The forests.  The millions of forms of life.  Thunderstorms.  Volcanoes.  Snow.  Our history, including past civilizations and enormous monstrous dinosaurs.

Now consider that there are at least 10 trillion planetary systems in the known universe.  Notice the “at least”.  That is 10,000,000,000,000.  Earth would be “1” of those.  The idea that there is no life on any of those other 9,999,999,999,999 planets is absurd.  Let alone that there has been no life in the past and there will be no life in the future!

Add in the possibility of multiple, or even infinite dimensions, which means entire civilizations could exist on a planet like Earth right alongside us without us knowing it, throw in the nature of time and time travel as it interacts with gravitational forces like black holes, and the concept exceeds the human mind’s ability to grasp.

Size of Universe

Earth Size In Universe

This is Earth. Presumably, it is safe to say you are here.

Solar System Size Universe

This is the solar system in which Earth resides. We are surrounded by several other planets and orbit a star we call the sun.

Solar Interstellar Neighborhood

Further out in space, there are several solar systems surrounding ours forming what we call the Solar Interstellar Neighborhood. Each of these solar systems contains stars and planets.

The Milky Way Galaxy

See that tiny, tiny dot? So tiny you can't even see it? That is our Solar Interstellar System. From here, we can't even make out our solar system let alone individual planets. The galaxy is enormous. We are rotating what is believed to be a black hole. Current scientific estimates conclude that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone with planets orbiting them.

Local Galactic Group

As we travel further into space, the entire galaxy becomes just a dot of light. Each of those other dots are other galaxies.

Virgo Supercluster

Further away, it is possible to see the Virgo Supercluster. That red notation represents our local galactic group, containing all of the galaxies near us. In that is the Milky Way galaxy. In that is the solar interstellar neighborhood. In that is our solar system. In that is planet Earth.

Local Superclusters in Universe

The local supercluster group contains the virgo supercluster, where we are located, as well as the other superclusters near us.

Observable Universe

That tiny dot that you can hardly make out on the screen is the Virgo Supercluster. All of those other dots are superclusters. And this is just the observable universe that we can estimate. It is believed that there are countless, perhaps even infinite, other dimensions. Theoretically, planet Earth could have entire civilizations that exist in other dimensions we can't access or interact with at the present time. Then there is the issue of time and gravity. If time travel is possible, all of these universes would be occurring at the same time everywhere in all dimensions.

These images were created by Azcolvin429 and distributed to the public through an attribution license.  They were designed to help you understand the size of Earth compared to the size of the universe.  You can access the original high-resolution images here.

  • Gilvus

    These 3-D visuals can definitely make us feel insignificant. What about 4-D, going back in time? Here is a visual history of the earth:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Geologic_Clock_with_events_and_periods.svg

    Note: “Ma” means “million years before present,” and “Ga” is “billion years before present.”

  • JustSomeGuy

    Now think about this!

    http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/cells/scale/

    Use the slide bar underneath the picture.

  • virlyn

    so… how big is my problem now?

  • Butch krichmar

    LOOK WHAT WE CREATED

  • Gus

    My brain hurts but then again so does my counterparts in another dimension.

  • Zachary Zheng

    “This is Earth. Presumably, it is safe to say you are here.” Is it? Perhaps I am on Earth right now, but I could easily copy this to my computer, come back home, and show it to my friends. Your species is so arrogant.

    • Joshua Kennon

      You have committed logical and linguistic errors.

      Presumably = “asserted, though not certain”.
      Certain = “known for sure”

      Thus, the statement reads, “This is Earth. It is not known for sure that you are here.”

      Given that I only replicate my blog on servers on planet Earth, and that it is written in the English language, which is spoken by a minority of people on this particular planet, and 100% of my visitor logs show this, in the absence of competing information, it is the only rational pretense upon which to advance since I am writing for a specific audience that makes up a minority of the global population.

      You, somehow and very incorrectly, misconstrue that statement as a belief that life only exists on Earth. You are wrong. I never said that, nor do I believe that.

      Were you to take my post, copy it to a computer, and travel to a different planet that was home to intelligent life, it would be your responsibility to account for original context, recognizing the obvious that you were reading a document not originally written for you as a target audience. The arrogance, therefore, would be yours in believing everything was created for your benefit.

  • Mureille

    It is not absurd to think that we’re the only ones in this universe. What’s wrong with that?

    • Joshua Kennon

      As of a few years ago (2009, I believe), the estimate of the habitable planets in the observable universe, published by Alan Boss, astrophysicist at Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., was ten thousand billion billion.

      That is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Earth-like planets. Add in the possible existence of multiple dimensions and other planes that we have not yet observed and the probability that Earth is the only area of existence that has, is, or will harbor intelligent life is patently absurd. It simply is not mathematically feasible. The odds are so incomprehensibly against the notion of man being the sole intellect that it is almost comical.

      • whatthebuck

        It really doesn’t matter how many habitable planets there are in the universe. We really have no accessible mean to interact with them. We have a better chance to create a virtual artificial intelligent world and be gods to them than figuring out how to access to those ET world.

        • http://www.joshuakennon.com/ Joshua Kennon

          I disagree that “it doesn’t matter”. To the extent that it helps scientist develop a better understanding of natural phenomenon, I think it could have valuable second and third order effects on a wide range of fields as physics, quantum mechanics, abiogenesis (and, whether or not exogensis played a role in our own planet), ideal formation parameters for life, etc. It also could introduce more mental models – it wouldn’t be the first time nature provided a workable system that mankind can emulate based on the needs of particular social organizations.

          Personally, absent better information, I don’t think it particularly advisable were we were to discover other life to attempt to contact it. As for traveling distances: It may seem impossible at the moment, but the bicycle as we know it was invented only 15 years or so before the Wright bothers discovered flight. That means it took mankind only 84 years to go from bicycles to a moon landing. There is a sort of exponential effect once these things get started that I wouldn’t be particularly keen on discounting as it seems to happen too often in history.

    • William Williams

      you obviously do not know math

  • Sarah

    I can’t imagine or perceive that there are other intelligent lives in other planets/dimensions, I mean those creatures can’t be 100% the same as human beings with the same genetic and behavior and manners! Just remember that “Life” can be a single living Cell or a giant creation. Parallel Universes are much likely seem to be a science fiction, so we can just take it to other category, “Philosophy” or perhaps Sci-Fi if you like this more.

    ” I guess that you believe in the theory of the parallel Universes. But we’re not able to make sure/prove/disprove something that can’t be proven by our limited laws of math and physics which are created on the basis of our observation, perception and the limited examinations.”

  • Inquiring Mind

    So what is the answer? How big Is earth compared to the universe?

    • Brandon Baehman

      I was told (and I’m not sure how accurate it is) that if you want a comparison it would be the size of our Sun compared to a hydrogen atom.

  • swag

    lol swag

  • Michael Allred

    Thank you for this article. I love it. Great work.

  • faukka

    If earth is 1 among the 10 trillion planetary system, how come you expect the creator of the universe to be “born” in the earth and how come you often search him within the earthly boundary?

    • tom

      I would not expect the creator of the universe to be born on earth. Nevertheless,as a part of His plan He sent his son to be born on earth in order to bring His message face to face to His creation. You and I. And when He did leave earth, and the earthly connection was cut He left us with His Spirit for an unearthly means of communication….. I would think that God our creator being able to create10 trillion planetary systems would not find it hard to come up with ten trillion different plans to reach all His creation…… :) google John3:16 :)

  • CrossEyedJack

    I do agree that life exist elsewhere including intelligent life. At the same time life in its most simplistic form is extremely complicated and we still don’t understand what sparks life. Life starting out of Random chance could be extremely rare. That’s just simple life, complex life another order of magnitude rarer. Intelligent could be several orders of magnitude rarer.

    Earth has had complex life for nearly a billion years and millions if not billions of complex species, yet only 1 species has Human Intelligence. Even on our planet the Odds are extremely poor for Higher Intelligent life. When factor all this together Life might be very rare, maybe even 1 in trillion chance, maybe more, especially for Human like Intelligence. Would could be the ultimate rarity in the Universe and would be the only ones that would know it. Until we can find life outside our Planet (Even Mars might not be could, because life could have originated on either planet, got transported on Asteroids).

    I think Europa is the place to look. Its Oceans would be sealed for Billions of years and if life exists it would have different Origin then Earth, Mars or even Venus. If life could start and evolve twice in 1 solar system, then we know the Odds are very good for life to start if the conditions are right.

    Really if not a good Scientific statement to say Its absurd to say life only exists on earth. Not until we have proof.

    Don’t hate on this, Personally I believe the Universe is teaming with Life and I also believe the Observable Universe is really a small part of something that goes off into Infinity.

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