Bret and I finished watching the 2018 film First Man last night. What drama and cost of life it took us to land people on the moon! We haven’t been back since the year I was born because the expense is still astronomical. We know a lot more than we did 50 years ago about space, our own biology, physics, particle science – a lot of things. What grips me is considering what we don’t know.
According to World Atlas, humans have explored approximately 5% of our ocean’s floors and about 3% of the oceans in total. We have not seen 97% of our own oceans. Every time these brave divers go somewhere new – they find stuff that they thought would be impossible: molten sulfur pools at the bottom of the ocean (with creatures living right above them), underwater waterfalls, life where there should not be life.
Here is a fairly short video with some fun footage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: https://vimeo.com/264435524 – they are traveling deep with new 3-D technology, and my bet is there will be some explosive discoveries in the next few years. ON OUR VERY OWN PLANET.
Away from our planet, things get really crazy. 2 spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have left the protective bubble of our sun called the heliosphere and are technically in interstellar space heading towards the outer reaches of the solar system. The outer boundary of our solar system is the Oort Cloud. The spacecrafts will run out of power around 2025, but if they could be endlessly powered, they would reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud in 300 years and finally get beyond it in about 30,000 years. Yep – that’s just our solar system.
Scientists have confirmed 500 solar systems in our tiny neighborhood within the Milky Way, and they estimate that there are likely tens of billions or even hundreds of billions more solar systems in our galaxy alone. With the fastest travel on the “near” horizon (ion propulsion), it would take a spacecraft 81,000 years to reach the nearest star. The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and there are approximately 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe.
Assuming there is an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy (probably low), there would be an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion, if you’re wondering how to say it) stars in the universe. I know that number doesn’t even take an entire line of this post, but it’s big, people.
The next closest galaxy to the Milky Way is a mere 146,643,601,368,010,816 miles away.:) The farthest observed galaxy? It’s 76,254,048,000,000,000,000,000 miles away. Or it was. Since our universe is expanding and our visual information on said galaxy is 13.3 billion years old, well…
When I dip my brain in this sea of numbers, when I see videos of fish swimming on top of liquid sulfur lakes at the bottom of our ocean, it seems ridiculous to think that this universe is not teeming with life forms that far exceed our wildest sci-fi books. I suppose this makes me feel very small, but it also makes me feel a part of something very big. What about you?
Time to pull out C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy again.