It’s easy for us humans to get caught up in our own petty earthly affairs, and to forget that we are part of a cosmos that exists on a scale so large it’s almost impossible to fathom. Looking up toward the stars is not just for dreamers and university-bound scientists, but an essential act all of us humans must experience from time to time. The universe is vast, and if we are to survive on this planet, and perhaps even stand a chance to explore the farthest reaches of space, we must acknowledge the needless absurdity of our own hostilities and work toward the greater pursuit of scientific inquiry and social harmony. So take a moment to take in these pics that show just how small our planet is compared to the known parts of our universe. Perhaps after looking at these images, you’ll stop worrying about the overgrowth of your neighbor’s lawn, or that yapping dog down the street.
1. The image featured above compares the Earth to our sun.
2. Earth is part of the Milky Way Galaxy
This image points out our location within the larger Milky Way Galaxy cluster.
3. Even the Milky Way Galaxy is tiny compared to the billions of other galaxies that exist in space
IC 1011 is a galaxy that’s located 350 million light years from Earth, and makes our own galaxy look like a spec of dust.
4. Just one tiny section of space when magnified can include billions of planets and star
It’s truly staggering to realize that just one tiny section of space can include so many stars and galaxies. Are you feeling insignificant, yet?
5. Jupiter is one of the planets in our solar system, and that tiny green smudge in the center is North America
That circle of menacing mayhem is Jupiter’s largest storm called the Great Red Spot. Although its size fluctuates throughout the year, the Great Red Spot never disappears. Now, imagine getting caught up in one of those. Yikes!
6. and 7. Here’s the distance between the Earth and our moon
Ok, so you’re not impressed, and it probably seems like the moon is not that far away. In reality, the distance between us and our own moon is quite vast. Perhaps the following image will provide some much needed perspective.
8. Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
When people think about comets and asteroids, they often think of them as relatively harmless little pieces of rock zipping around and past us. At most, they’ll conjure a vague memory of a film or television show featuring a flying space ship zapping its way through a cluster of asteroids. In truth, comets and asteroids vary greatly in size. The comet pictured above (which is also the same comet on which the European Space Agency just landed a probe) provides us a sense of scale when compared to the city Los Angeles.
9. Even our sun is minuscule when compared to other known stars
VY Canis Majoris is one of the largest known stars. In fact, it is 1,000,000,000 times bigger than our sun.
10. The following series of images work together to create a narrative of size and scale that compares the size of Earth to its own solar system and beyond
Here is the Earth’s location inside its own solar system:
Here is our solar system next to its interstellar neighbors:
And now here’s where it starts getting scary, our interstellar neighborhood within the Milky Way Galaxy itself:
Even our own Milky Way Galaxy is puny compared to its own intergalactic neighbors:
Ok, you’re probably catching on to the pattern, or perhaps not. The following makes even our own local galactic group seem small:
And wait, it just keeps growing!
And now for the grand universe itself, and our place inside it.
Hopefully, these images have humbled your sense of place inside our universe. Oh, and did I mention that there is a growing number of physicists who theorize that our universe is just one among many?