17 photos show how amazingly huge the universe is

Within this universe, we are just a drop in the cosmic ocean.

This image from the International Space Station was taken by astronaut Karin Nyberg in 2013, and shows the two largest islands in the southern part of the Mascarene Plateau: Reunion, in the foreground, and Mauritius, partially covered by clouds. To see a human on Earth from the height of the International Space Station, a Hubble-sized telescope would be needed. The size of a human being is less than 1/5,000,000 of the Earth’s scale, but the Earth is just a proverbial drop in the cosmic ocean.

(credit: NASA/Karen Nyberg)

Everything that humanity has ever witnessed is limited to a ball with a diameter of only 13,000 km.

earth move

This view of Earth comes from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which had to make flights over Earth and Venus in order to lose enough energy to reach its final destination: Mercury. The round globe and its properties cannot be denied, because this rotation explains why the Earth bulges in the center, is compressed at the poles, and has different equatorial and polar diameters. However, Earth’s average diameter is still just under 13,000 km, and varies by less than 1% in the polar and equatorial directions.


Even other planets routinely occupy the size of the Earth thousands of times.

The planets of the solar system appear here on a scale in terms of their physical sizes, but not in terms of the distances between them. Both Jupiter and Saturn are more than ten times the diameter of Earth, and some giant planets can be up to twice the size of Jupiter.

(credit: NASA/Moon and Planetary Institute)

Stars start out smaller than the larger planets, but get much larger.

Brown dwarfs, between about 13-80 solar masses, will fuse deuterium + deuterium into helium-3 or tritium, remaining about the same size as Jupiter but achieving much larger masses. Red dwarfs are only slightly larger, but Sun-like stars are not shown here, and they will be several times larger.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCB)

The largest giant stars have diameters exceeding billions of kilometers.

This illustration shows some of the largest stars in the universe, along with the orbits of Saturn (brown ellipse) and Neptune (blue ellipse) for comparison. The stars, left to right, are the largest blue giant, yellow giant, orange giant, and then the two largest stars ever: the red giant UY Scuti and Stephenson 2-18. The largest stars have a diameter of about 2,000 times the diameter of our Sun.

(Credit: SkyFlubbler/Wikimedia Commons)

They are comparable in size to the event horizon of more massive black holes.

OJ 287

This graph shows the relative sizes of the event horizons of the two supermassive black holes orbiting each other in the OJ 287 system. The largest, at 18 billion solar masses, is 12 times the size of Neptune’s orbit. The smaller mass, at 150 million solar masses, is equivalent to the size of the orbit of the asteroid Ceres around the Sun. A few precious galaxies, all of which are much smaller than our own, have a supermassive black hole of “only” ~4 million solar masses.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC))

But even the largest individual objects do not correspond to the cosmic groups of things.

The solar system, as viewed on a logarithmic scale, shows how far some objects are. The planets, the Kuiper belt, the Oort cloud, and the closest star appear here, with Voyager 1, currently 155.5 AU from the Sun, the most distant artificial spacecraft.

(credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Around each star system, Oort clouds span several light years: tens of trillions of kilometers.

Oort cloud

Illustration of the inner and outer Oort cloud surrounding our sun. While the inner Oort cloud is annulus shaped, the outer Oort cloud is spherical. The true extent of the outer Oort cloud may be less than 1 light-year, or more than 3 light-years; There is enormous uncertainty here. Comet Bernardinelli-Bernstein has an aphelion just under a light-year away, indicating that the Oort Cloud is at least as large.

(Credit: Pablo Carlos Bodassi/Wikimedia Commons)

The same stars are clustered together in great galactic clusters.

There are only about 1,000 stars in all of the dwarf galaxies Segue 1 and Segue 3, which have a gravitational mass of 600,000 suns. The stars that make up the dwarf satellite Segue 1 are circled here. As we discover smaller and fainter galaxies with fewer stars, we begin to learn how common these small galaxies are; There are approximately 100 individuals in our local group alone.

(credit: Marla Jha/Keck Observatory)

At the very least, it possesses thousands of stars that span hundreds of light years.

biggest galaxy

The giant group of galaxies, Abell 2029, has galaxy IC 1101 at its core. At 5.5 to 6.0 million light-years across over 100 trillion stars and a mass of roughly a quadrillion suns, it’s the largest galaxy ever known by many measures. It is unfortunately difficult for the universe to make a single object significantly larger due to its finite age and the presence of dark energy.

(Credit: Digitized Sky Survey 2; NASA)

The largest galaxies contain more than 100 trillion stars, with record-breaking Alcyoneus spanning an unprecedented 16 million light-years across.

biggest galaxy

In a first-of-its-kind image, scale galaxies are shown, including the Milky Way, Andromeda, the largest spiral galaxy (UGC 2885), the largest elliptical galaxy (IC 1101), and the largest radio galaxy, Alcyoneus. together and precisely to expand.

(credit: e-siegel)

On larger scales, galaxies cluster together, forming structures hundreds of millions of light-years across.

The massive galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5 + 223, the light of which took more than 5 billion years to reach us, is among the largest bound structures in the entire universe. On larger scales, nearby galaxies, clusters, and clusters may appear to be related, but separated from this cluster by dark energy; Giant clusters are just superficial structures, but the largest clusters of associated galaxies can still reach hundreds of millions, perhaps even a billion light-years away.

(Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Rodney (JHU) and the FrontierSN team; T. Treu (UCLA), P. Kelly (UC Berkeley), and the GLASS team; J. Lotz (STScI) and the Frontier Fields team M. Postman (STScI) and the CLASH Team, and Z. Levay (STScI))

The largest of the giant clusters, voids, and filaments – though unrelated to gravity – span billions of light years.

One of the largest visible structures in the universe, and probably thought to be transient, the Sloan Great Wall is about 1.37 billion light-years in diameter. It may just be a chance alignment of many superclusters, but it’s certainly not a single gravitationally bound structure. Sloan’s Great Wall galaxies are depicted on the right.

(Credit: Willem Chap (left); Pablo Carlos Bodassi (right) / Wikimedia Commons)

Overall, our observable universe spans 92 billion light-years.


The size of our observable universe (yellow), along with how far we can reach it (magenta). The boundary of the visible universe is 46.1 billion light-years, which is the maximum range of light-emitting body that will reach us today after stretching away from us for 13.8 billion years. However, after about 18 billion light-years, we can never reach a galaxy even if we travel towards it at the speed of light. Beyond the bounds of the observable universe lies more of the universe, even the limits imposed by any place where inflation does not end at the same time as the hot Big Bang. This limit, if present, is not detected.

(Credit: Andrew Z. Colvin and Frederic Michel, Wikimedia Commons; Annotations: E. Siegel)

But the invisible universe must be at least hundreds of times larger.

This simulation shows the cosmic web of dark matter and the large-scale structure that forms it. Natural matter is present, but it is only 1/6 of the total matter. Meanwhile, matter itself makes up about two-thirds of the entire universe, while dark energy makes up the rest. The invisible universe should extend at least 400 times the extent of the visible universe that we can see, which means that our universe, 92 billion light-years in diameter, is less than one-64 millionth the minimum size of what is out there.

(Credit: The Millennium Simulation, F. Springell et al.)

For all we know, the universe may be infinite.

parallel universe

While it is expected that many independent universes will be created in an inflating space-time, inflation never ends everywhere at once, but only ends in separate, independent regions separated by a space that continues to inflate. This is where the scientific impetus for the multiverse comes from, why two universes will never collide, and why we fully expect the unobserved universe to tilt toward infinite size over time.

(Credit: MUSTAFABULENT / Adobe Stock)

Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story with pictures, visuals, and no more than 200 words. taciturn; smile more.