When Gene Roddenberry imagined Star Trek, it was a future in which scientists and explorers could jet across the world as warp speeds. In just moments, they could fly from one side of a solar system to another. But even in a future where traveling 2,000 times the speed of light is commonplace, the universe is still expansive. In The Next Generation, the Enterprise never leaves the galaxy. That’s because outer space is big. Really big. Traveling at the speed of light, it would take 100,000 years to cross the Milky Way. To help conceptualize just how vast space is and how insignificant we are, here’s some big stuff.
5 Biggest Things in Outer Space.
The biggest stars in the known universe belong to the hyper-giant class. By comparison, our Sun is a G-type, yellow dwarf star. Over a million Earth’s fit into our Sun. And the UY Scuti can fit 1,700 of our suns inside of it.
NGC 4889 Blackhole
Black holes are places where super-strong gravity from dying stars compresses a lot of things into small areas. Matter is so compressed, not even light can escape. And, they’re massive space phenomena that are part of the universe’s geography. There are black holes in the Milky Way, but the one in galaxy NGC 4889 is much larger–scientists consider it supermassive. It’s 21 billion times the mass of our Sun, which is 333,000 times the Earth’s mass.
Galaxy IC 1101
Galaxies don’t have borders, the way states and countries do. You don’t reach a sign saying, “Now leaving the Milky Way, visit again soon!” So scientists have trouble determining the exact size of clusters of solar systems. Their best guess for the largest (discovered so far) is IC 1101 that’s about 50 times the size of the Milky Way and would take 5.5 million years to travel across at the speed of light–or Warp 1.
NGC 604 Nebula
You can see nebulas–enormous clouds of gas and dust in space–from Earth with a basic telescope. The center dot of the sword in the Orion constellation is actually a nebula, not a star. Astronomers think NGC 604 in the Triangulum Galaxy is one of the largest–about 1,500 light-years across. It’s also a star nursery, with young blue stars, not much bigger than our Sun clustered near the middle.
Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall
Galaxies cluster together because space is vast, cold, and lonely. No, they gather because of gravitational pull. Our own Milky Way lives in a cluster with about 20 other galaxies. We’re a small neighborhood compared to some big-city groups out there, like the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, which would take 10 billion years at Warp 1 to cross.