Stars in Billions and Billions of Galaxies
Take a good look at this picture. Go ahead, embiggen it. Check it out. I’ll wait.
What you’re looking at are galaxies. There are 7,500 of them in this image, which covers a very small angular area of space. The most distant galaxies lie more than 13 billion light-years away. That means the light captured in this image of those galaxies was shining a few hundred million years AFTER the Big Bang — the event that resulted in the birth of the universe. The closest galaxies in this image emitted their light about a billion years ago.
When you look at this image, you’re gazing at a slice of cosmic time, a snapshot of galaxies in nearly every stage of formation and evolution. If you looked in every direction, across the entire sky, the view would be similar to this — galaxies as far as we can detect. Billions and billions of galaxies, each one comprised of anywhere from a few hundred million stars to hundreds of billions of stars.
Think about that as you gaze at this picture.
That’s a lot of stars. And, you have to wonder if we really are the only ones out here in this vast cosmos to appreciate that fact. Are we the only life capable of looking up and wondering if any of those other stars have planets and life? I often think about that concept — as I wonder what the future of the cosmos will be; and think about the glories of past histories in other galaxies — glories we can only appreciate as a dim glow from a galaxy long, long ago and far, far away.