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Sunday, July 25, 2010


(The Milky Way galaxy)

My father mentioned yesterday that the nearest star to our sun is Alpha Centauri (in fact a double star), which is 4.2 light years away. A light year, of course, is the distance that light, which travels 186,000 miles per second, can travel in a year.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is a spiral galaxy approximately a hundred thousand light years in diameter and about two thousand light years thick. The period of our sun's orbit about the center of the galaxy is approximately once every two hundred and fifty million years.

The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars.

(Our neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, contains approximately a trillion stars.)

There are over a billion galaxies in the Universe. And that's just the observable part of the Universe.

And the universe is ever expanding.

It is always said that contemplation of these facts will remind one of one's own insignificance in the cosmos. And how trivial our problems really are.

My ego (and my problems) are such that it fails to have that effect on me.

But perhaps it will work for you.

(Or, maybe you can use that line of logic the next time someone complains to you. Just say, "Hey, we're just one little planet out of nine in the solar system, our sun is just one of three hundred billion stars in our galaxy, and there are billions of galaxies in the universe. On our little planet there are 62,000 species of vertebrate animals among over a million animals worldwide. And of our species, you're just one of seven billion. So stop being so goddamned egocentric -- no one really gives a shit about your problems.")

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