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Spiral Galaxy NGC 4414

Posted by
Aaron Schmidt (Auckland, New Zealand) on 6 November 2006 in Miscellaneous.

I have to admit I didn't take this picture. It was captured in 1995 by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA has recently approved a shuttle mission to fix this legendary instrument. This image in particular was taken from this list of the Top 100 Hubble images.

I find it amazing that this galaxy (similar to our own) contains more than 100 billion stars. 100,000,000,000 is a number difficult to imagine. If a star was the size of a frozen pea, then 100 billion of them would completely fill a large auditorium, like the Royal Albert Hall or the old Boston Garden. (Statistic taken from Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.)

Another way to think of these enormous numbers is if you go to the beach and take a handful of sand, you'd have about 10,000 pieces of sand in your palm. On a very clear night with the unaided eye, you could see about 10,000 stars in the sky. Now here's the interesting bit: There are more stars in the universe then all the sand on all the beaches of the Earth. Think about that.