A Tiny Giant
THE sun is a giant in our solar system. It is so huge that 1,300,000 earths could fit inside it. But compare the sun to some of the supergiant stars in our galaxy, and it suddenly looks tiny indeed.
For instance, imagine putting various supergiant stars right where our sun is. There are some so mammoth that they would engulf the entire orbit of the earth. We would be inside the star! The star called Betelgeuse would extend nearly to Jupiter. And if the star Mu Cephei sat where the sun is, it would swallow Saturn—although Saturn is so far away that it took the Voyager 2 spacecraft four years to get there from Earth, traveling about 20 times as fast as a speeding bullet.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, has been called a giant spiral galaxy. Appropriately so. The sheer immensity of this great glowing pinwheel of over 100,000,000,000 stars, spinning majestically in the blackness of space, is staggering to the human mind. If we could stand on one edge of our galaxy and send a beam of light toward the opposite edge, it would take over 100,000 years for that light to cross the galaxy even though that beam would hurtle toward its goal at awesome speed: 186,000 miles [300,000 km] every second. In other words, the Milky Way has a diameter of 100,000 light-years.
Yet, our neighboring spiral galaxy, Andromeda, is over twice the size of ours and may contain some 600,000,000,000 stars. What is more, astronomers have discovered a mammoth galaxy they named Markarian 348. It is some 13 times as large in diameter as our Milky Way galaxy, measuring about 1,300,000 light-years across!
Even the behemoth Markarian 348 would look small next to the galaxy recently discovered at the center of a cluster of galaxies called Abell 2029. Scientists believe that this is the largest galaxy they have ever seen. It is over 60 times as large as our own galaxy. It is some 6,000,000 light-years across and is home to a mind-numbing swarm of some 100,000,000,000,000 stars. According to a report in The New York Times, this is also one of the most luminous galaxies ever observed. And it is not the chaotic product of random forces. “This is an organized mass of light and energy,” one of its discoverers [male] said of it. “It’s a very large, organized galaxy.”
Our brains cannot even begin to grasp the immensity of these collections of stars or the vast distances involved. So, what about the creative, organizing force behind it all? “Raise your eyes high up and see. Who has created these things? It is the One who is bringing forth the army of them even by number, all of whom he calls even by name.” (Isaiah 40:26) If the creation is awesome, how much more awesome is the Creator!
[Picture Credit Line on page 24]
U.S. Naval Observatory photo