Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Virgo Supercluster

Distance, on a larger scale, is something that – for most of us – is very difficult to represent accurately in our minds, and that is merely the biological drawback of these things. The routes you take often - such as traveling to work or school - are built into your mind so that you have a strong understanding of how far it is, and how long it will take you to traverse.

Our planet has a radius of about 6,400km, but we never cover these large distances across the globe, making it quite difficult to discern how large Earth is in comparison to the minute scale of human things. But we now know that we can zoom out of our quaint, picturesque blue dot and see that the Earth is situated in a solar system about 4 light years across (remember it takes light traveling at 300 million m/s just 8 minutes to reach Earth, so consider traveling this distance for 4 solid years), containing planets hundreds of times its size, all revolving around a star that could swallow all of them up several times over. Zooming out, we see our local stellar neighbourhood; a collection of star systems around 30 light years across.

If we expand our field of view further; we have the famous Milky Way galaxy. It comes in at a staggering one hundred thousand light years across (meaning, it takes light 100,000 years to travel from one side of the galaxy to the other).

If you think that sounds pretty large, wait, as we are just getting started.

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