Posted by: T. Boyd | August 24, 2009

Number of Galaxies and Stars

Here is an expanded version of the first part of the last blog entitled:  Galaxy Zoo … This one was just submitted to the Caroline Progress.

I finally jumped in. I found out about the web site some time ago, but had never participated till last Saturday. I did the 20 minute tutorial with hands-on practice, and then enjoyed classifying about 10 galaxies in my first session.  It is easy and requires no prior knowledge.

The Galaxy Zoo site has a huge deposit of deep sky photographs taken by the 8 foot diameter telescope at Apache Point Observatory, New Mexico. The photographs are posted on the site.  Volunteers examine pictures one by one and answer a series of questions about the appearance of each galaxy.  Then the project scientists analyze the answers statistically to classify each galaxy.

The creators of the site expected a few thousand volunteers, but they had a huge response, with some 70,000 galaxies being classified every hour  on the first day of the announcement.  The number of volunteers is now more than 150,000.  One of them, a Dutch teacher, Ms. Hanny Van Arkel, 25, discovered a one-of-a-kind sight now appropriately called Hanny’s Voorwerp’ (Dutch for object).  It is a large bright greenish-blue “blob”, still awaiting classification, located near a huge galaxy.  Vast opportunities await us!

On Sunday I gave a short talk during the worship time about the amazing number of galaxies, each containing a huge of number of stars, all created for God’s glory and for our enjoyment.  Yesterday, I read on the NASA web that there are about 350 billion galaxies in our universe.

Since the Milky Way Galaxy, where we live, is an average size galaxy with an estimated 200 billion stars, then the number of stars in the universe is about 70 billion-trillion stars!

I have no feel for such large numbers.  I have a hard time trying to get a feel for the size of a trillion dollars, a term frequently used to describe the U.S. budget.  So lets try to think how big just one trillion is.

Last week on the radio, I heard a man tell a tale about a trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) that gave me a better grasp on the magnitude of that number.  Here is a paraphrase of what he said.

“Suppose you are very, very wealthy and older than Methuselah, and you are making payments on your mansion on a non-interest loan of one trillion dollars.  Your house payment is 1 million dollars a day ($1,000,000/day)!”

The story continues.  “You bought the house on the day that Christ was born 2000 years ago [like I said, you are very old], and started paying back the loan at that time – a million bucks a day.  Then, how much of the loan have you paid off?  Answer: about 70%.  ‘When’. you ask, ‘will my last payment be?’  Answer: in the year 2750.  Only 741 years to go.”

So that’s one trillion.  The number of stars in the universe, by comparison,  is about 70 billion times that.    It is an understatement to say that the universe that God made and maintains “by the word of His power [Heb 1:3]” is mind-boggling.  He is awesome.

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