A Thought for You As You Stare Up at the Stars and Ponder the New Year

All the stars in the sky? That's nothing in the cosmic scheme of things.

nightsky.jpg

flickr/dawn_perry

The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, points out that even when you look up into the infinitude of the night sky, even on December 31, even when you're out in the middle of nowhere contemplating the future, you're still only seeing a teensy, tiny fraction of all the stars just in our own galaxy.

When you look up at the night sky, it seems it's filled with stars. But you're only seeing a tiny, tiny fraction of all the stars in the Milky Way. Our galaxy is a disk 100,000 light years across, and with only a handful of exceptions, all the stars you see are less than 1000 light years away. Most are far closer than that! At best, you're seeing a few thousand stars out of the hundreds of billions in the Milky Way, a paltry fraction of 0.000003%! 

Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In