I found this article on DiscoverMagazine.com today about how fast our universe is expanding… and how astronomers figure this kind of thing out. After reading the whole thing, I was in awe… for two reasons.
First, the size and content of our universe is just completely mind-blowing. Carl Sagan’s “billions and billions” quote seems to understate it to an extreme degree. Just looking at a single galaxy and trying to wrap my head around how many stars it contains… and that just one of those stars (among billions) is like our Sun, one infinitesimally small fireball in a whirling mass of billions of similar fireballs… and that our tiny planet revolves around one such tiny star… it makes my head hurt.
Second, that there are people on this planet who have the intellectual wherewithall to actually measure the distance between galaxies and the speed of universal expansion by using supernovas and the pulsating brightness of stars. I mean, I can’t really grasp the idea of how small we are in just a galaxy (one of billions) without misfiring neurons in my brain causing me physical pain, but these guys are discussing the expansion of the universe, pulsating Cepheid variables, type I supernovae, and dark energy. I imagine them doing it casually over a beer or two at their local pub, but I’m sure they work exceptionally hard in labs and observatories and classrooms. Either way… wow.
So kudos to astronomers… misfiring neurons never felt so good!