How big is this “Big”?
I am sure that all of us, at some point in our lives, whether it was when we were kids or even as adults, have wondered how big our universe actually is. I mean, we all know it is humongous and very, very big, but just how big is this ‘big’? In our minds, this big is so unfathomable that we often shut off these thoughts because we feel a bit of existential crisis creeping in!
Estimating the size of the Universe
One of the problems with estimating the size of the universe is that it is virtually impossible. There is no possible way of putting a single numerical value on it because it is all about perspective. From the point of view of an ant, the size of a house is unfathomable. From the point of view of a human, even the distance from the Earth to the Sun or the neighbouring planet is unfathomable, let alone the size of the entire universe. The truth is that we are simply akin to a speck of dust in a gigantic dust bowl that has seemingly no ends.
Our “small Home”
The Earth itself is tiny and minute as compared to what lies around it. Recently, a meteor crashed into Jupiter and it is being said that the crater or mark the collision left behind on the planet is roughly the size of our Earth. On the other hand, the closest star to Earth, which is the Sun, would require over 340 Earths to wrap around its diameter and over 1,300,000 duplicates of our planet to fill the sphere up completely. And to top it off, we haven’t even mentioned anything outside of our Solar System yet! Our Solar system is a very small part of the Milky Way galaxy which is in turn an extremely small part of outer space which consists of millions of similar galaxies that are filled with stars and other heavenly bodies.
Earth vs Planets in our Solar System
The Expanding Universe
The other problem with giving an estimate to the size of the universe is the fact that it is always expanding and spreading out. As objects spread and further space out, they become too far away for us to even view or access them. The connection between distance and the speed of light only allows us to view at a region in space that comes under certain limitations of light years. The Hubble Space Telescope has been able to view objects and bodies that are at maximum 15 billion light years away. Space curvature geometry has, however, allowed us to estimate that our universe has to be at least 14 trillion light years across. To put that into perspective, the universe is only 13.8 billion light years old! These calculations are made using cosmic microwave background light that arrives to us at Earth from far off places and olden times.
To sum it up, the seemingly flat nature of the universe makes it seem as if it is infinite but we are aware that its age has limitations. This leads us to the conclusion that the volume of space is finite and calculable but not at this point in time as it is out of our observable range. All we can say is that space is big- pretty big!