And you thought Felix Baumgartner’s stratospheric leap made you feel small.
We’re discovering incredible facts about the universe seemingly everyday. We think the universe is 13.7 billions years old and it is currently expanding. There are theories that the universe could be infinite, and theories that there could be multiple universes. For our purposes today, we’re going to stick with just the facts, and talk a little bit about the largest galaxy known to man, the creatively named IC 1101!
The Milky Way Galaxy
The galaxy in which Earth resides, the Milky Way galaxy, is about 100,000 light years in diameter. You may be asking yourself, what is a light year? How many miles are there in a light year? You’d probably be surprised to learn that just one light year is equivalent to 5.9 Trillion miles! (Actually it’s 5,865,696,000,000, but who’s counting).
To put this into the perspective of our space travel capabilities, NASA’s Voyager 1 probe, the farthest object ever launched from Earth, has currently traveled a cumulative 11.3 billion miles. Did I mention that Voyager 1 departed from Earth 35 years ago?
Now that we’ve come to grips with the unfortunate fact that we’ll probably never get to visit IC 1101, let’s figure out just how big it is compared to the seemingly massive galaxy we live in. We said that the Milky Way was 100k light years in diameter, well IC 1101 is about 5.5 million light years in diameter! It’s also located over one billion light years away from Earth! It’s so mind blowingly huge and far away that your brain may have just exploded (if so, we apologize). Chances are you’ve never thought about space quite like this.
Just how did IC 1101 become the biggest galaxy in the universe? Over billions of years, smaller galaxies became attracted to one another and collided. This process, though long and arduous, creates an exponentially larger galaxy, refreshing it with new materials and stars in the process. Pretty crazy stuff.
Finally, as you probably already know, the thing that we call our sun is a star. There are between 100-200 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. How many stars are there in IC 1101? Try 100 trillion.
Yep, we’re pretty tiny in the grand scheme of things. We’re making some sensational scientific and technological breakthroughs everyday, and we can definitely reach for the stars, but we’ve still got a long way to go before we can get to these stars. Here’s a short video talking more about IC 1101.
Tags: biggest galaxy, how many miles in a light year, how many stars are there, ic 1001, largest galaxy in the universe, miles in a light year, milky way galaxy, stars in the milky way, what is a light year
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