27 Photos That Will Make You Understand Earth’s Place In The Universe


We are so entrenched in the bubbles of our social lives that sometimes we forget how insignificant some of the things are when put against the whole image. And while for some people this realization might be comforting, that a spilled coffee, a lost job or a loss of a relationship is just such a small fraction of things happening in the universe, for others the thought can be absolutely terrifying.

Why not take a closer look at what’s out there and compare how vast the surrounding universe is compared to our little green planet? See for yourself just how big Jupiter is compared to North America? Or how big our sun is compared to the largest observed star? Maybe you’ll have to stop for a second and re-evaluate how you perceive everything around you!

This is the Earth, a planet that we all currently live on

Image credits: NASA

And this is the solar system where our planet shares space with the other 7

Image credits: NASA

The solar system is fascinating, with a history of not much, not little, just 4.568 billion years! It consists of a single star (Sun, duh!), 8 planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,
Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune) and 3 universally accepted dwarf planets (Ceres, Pluto, Eris). Oh, and everything in between, such as moons and asteroids and such. The system mass of the solar system is 1.0014 solar masses (one solar mass is equal to approximately 2×1030 kg, do the calculations) and the majority of the system’s mass is in the Sun (99,86 %) with the remaining majority contained in Jupiter.

This is how far away (to scale) the Moon is from the Earth which doesn’t seem as much

Image credits: Nickshanks

However, you can fit every planet in the solar system in that gap. Quite cool, huh?

Image credits: reddit

Jupiter is our giant of the solar system. It is so big that the entire continent of North America looks like a green speck on it

Image credits: John Brady/Astronomy Central

Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system. Named after the Roman god of sky and lightning, Jupiter is a planet with a radius of 69,911 km (43,441 mi) and a surface area of 6.1419×1010 km2 (2.3714×1010 sq mi) which would be approximately 122 Earths. Now that’s impressive! Unlike planets like Earth and Mars (that have rocky, terrestrial terrains), Jupiter is a gas giant, meaning that it consists mainly of hydrogen and helium for which it is sometimes called a failed star (because they contain the same basic elements of a star). When compared to the sun, the planet seems like a meek little bubble as its mass is only one-thousandth that of the Sun, however, if you combined the masses of the remaining solar system planets, Jupiter would still be two-and-a-half times bigger.

Another big body is Saturn. Here you can see how big it is compared to Earth (or 6 of them)

Image credits: John Brady/Astronomy Central

If Saturn’s rings were placed around Earth, here’s how they would look

Image credits: Ron Miller

Our observation of other objects in the universe have improved quite a bit, and these images of Pluto are a good example

Image credits: NASA

Ah, the heartbreak of a century, first called a planet and then being stripped of the title and reclassified as a dwarf. Even though it happened back in 2006, there are still people who are upset over the International Astronomical Union’s decision to define the term ‘planet’ which led to Pluto being excluded. In classic mythology, Pluto is the god of the afterlife and the ruler of the underworld. Despite it not being a planet anymore, people still sought to reach it and in 2015 The New Horizons spacecraft became the first probe to perform a flyby of Pluto. It took almost a year for the spacecraft to send back the collected information, but it was so so worth it.

Here’s how an artist imagined Rosetta’s Comet (67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko) would look when compared to the size of downtown Los Angeles. Makes you think about those end-of-the-world movies, no?

Image credits: anosmicovni

Although none of the previous objects have substance compared to our sun, a yellow dwarf star

Image credits: ajamesmccarthy

Sitting at the center of our system, the Sun is a nearly-perfect sphere of hot plasma with a surface area of 6.09×1012 km2 which is 12,000 Earths (just think about it for a moment!). It takes 8 min and 19 s for the light from the Sun to reach our planet. The Sun is made of ~73% hydrogen with the rest being mostly helium (~25%) and only small quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron. According to Wikipedia, the Sun “currently fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result”. The energy (which can take 10,000 – 170,000 years to escape from its core) is the source of Sun’s light and heat. When these processes decrease, the Sun’s core will increase density and temperature and the outer layers will expand, consuming the orbits of Mercury and Venus and rendering Earth uninhabitable. But that’s not going to happen in the upcoming 5 billion years or so, nothing to worry about!

This is how Earth looks from the surface of the Moon, not too bad?

Image credits: NASA/Bill Anders

Well, Mars gives a completely different perspective to our little planet

Image credits: NASA

And then there’s the view from behind Saturn’s rings, we seem like a planet for ants

Image credits: NASA

Around 2.9 billion miles away, just beyond Neptune, we seem smaller than a grain of salt

Image credits: NASA

So if that doesn’t put things into perspective, then let’s go big. This is how Earth looks when compared to the Sun

Image credits: John Brady/Astronomy Central

Though the Sun doesn’t look as bad when looking from the surface of Mars, right?

Image credits: NASA

There are so many stars in the universe that their number outweighs how many grains of sand there are on Earth’s beaches

Image credits: Sean O’Flaherty

Which means that our sun is just a grain of sand in the whole picture, especially compared to such giants like VY Canis Majoris

Image credits: Oona Räisänen

If VY Canis Majoris was placed in the center of our solar system, it would almost reach the orbit of Saturn

Image credits: Discovery Channel

If the Sun was scaled down to the size of a white blood cell, the Milky Way would be the size of the continental United States

Image credits: NASA

So when you look at our galaxy from that perspective, our tiny Earth truly loses its sense of magnitude

Almost all individual stars we see at night scattered all across the sky are just a fraction of what lies out there

Image credits: ScienceDump

And if you thought that the Milky Way is huge, here it is next to IC 1101, which is 1.04 billion light-years away

Image credits: IC 1101

To top the overwhelming vastness of universe exemplified so far, here’s a photo of thousands of galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope

Image credits: NASA

And here’s one of them, UDF 423, 7.7 billion light-years away

Image credits: NASA

What you see at night is just a small part of the universe

Image credits: NASA

And if you came here expecting black holes, here it is! This one’s compared to Earth’s orbit. Terrifying, isn’t it?

Image credits: D. Benningfield/K. Gebhardt/StarDate




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