The vastness of the universe is cause for joy, not loneliness

People have always been fascinated by the stars and many have tried to count them. When God promised Abraham that he would have innumerable descendants, He drew a striking comparison: ‘Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and He said unto him, So shall thy seed be’ (Genesis 15:5).

The total number of individual stars visible in both the northern and the southern celestial hemispheres is about 6,000. Thus, on a clear night one can see at most 3,000 stars at the same time. Is that all? With the advent of telescopes, very many previously unknown stars were discovered. Galileo (1564–1642), using his homemade telescope, saw a ten-fold increase in the number of visible stars, up to 30,000.

Today, the local Milky Way galaxy (of which our sun is a part) has been found to contain 200,000 million stars. What an astounding result! If somebody could count three stars per second, after 100 years he would have counted less than five percent of this number.

Our galaxy comprises not only an unimaginable host of stars, but the size of this bright starry band in the sky is also astounding. Its diameter is said to be 100,000 light-years.

Astronomical distances are too large to be measured in kilometers, so light-years are used instead. One light-year is the distance that a light ray travels in one year. At a speed of 300,000 kilometers (186,000 miles) per second, it amounts to 9.46 million million kilometers (5.87 million million miles)….

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