Have you ever looked up in the sky and gazed at the endless ocean of natural beauty hinted for us to discover by the Almighty in the cosmos? You can see stars, galaxies, planets, comets thousands of them, indistinguishable with the naked eye. And have you ever looked and wondered what lurks in the cosmos? Or better yet, have you wondered about life, our purpose, our significance? It is but natural to do so. Every 3am person does so every so often. If you haven’t yet, look up on a clear dark night and try to find an end and then look into yourself. look into your faith, look at everything around you and ask all the questions you want, all the questions you can, because every voyage starts with a question.
We see countless stars on an average night sky. Perhaps more than we can count. But countless and infinity are just terms used when our mind runs out of ability or simply gets bored or tired or exaggerates the facts because it’s too far fascinated and excited and finds a shortcut to escape from complexity. In shirt, it is just evidence of how small and insignificant our mind and capacity are.
How big is the Universe?
Let’s do a reality check, on even the clearest of nights there are “only” 3000 objects visible to the naked eye. Which means that we can only see so little of the stars, galaxies, asteroids and comets in the night sky. How big exactly are the cosmos?
That’s a pretty big question for us isn’t it? Allow me to demonstrate why. Firstly, there are about 100-400 billion stars in our galaxy “The Milky Way” alone. And there may be anywhere from a few hundred billion to a few trillion galaxies in the universe and the size of each galaxy varies dramatically.
While our own sun, a normal sized star, is over a million kilometers in diameter, the biggest stars in the universe are about a thousand times bigger. And the smallest are only about ten times smaller. The earth in comparison is can fit into the sun over a million times. Feel small enough yet? Well there are mountains to come. The smallest galaxies in the visible universe are only a couple of thousand light years. While the biggest galaxy yet discovered has the biggest edge about two million light years from its center and contains trillions of stars.
Every single galaxy is theorized to have a supermassive black hole at its center. Each of these are tens of millions to billions of times heavier than our own sun. The supermassive black hole at the middle of our own galaxy is about 3 million times heavier than our sun. The one we just imaged, which lies at the heart of the M87 galaxy, is about 2.4 billion times heavier than our sun. And its radius is about 60 light years. In contrast, our entire solar system, stretching beyond the Kuiper belt and to the limits of the Oort cloud, has a radius of about 1 light year at max.
The Rarity of Matter
Let’s talk about the distance between matter before getting into what lies ahead. The spread of matter in the volume of the universe can be compared to a building that is twenty miles long, twenty miles wide and twenty miles tall containing only ONE grain of sand in the middle. Most of space is, well, empty space. Matter is extremely scare. Even the distance between the Earth and the moon is several thousand times the Earths radius. And there is so much distance between them that you could fit every single planet in the solar system in between and still have room to spare.
The Other 95% of the Cosmos
Surprised? What we’ve talked about so far is visible matter. That is, matter we can see with our eyes and telescopes and all the equipment we’ve conjured up in all of the ranges of the electromagnetic spectrum. From Radio to Ultraviolet, everything we can possibly see or even detect makes up of less than 5% of the matter in the entire cosmos. Of that 95%, 27% is dark matter. This is a form of matter that only has gravitational influence on galaxies. We only know of its presence because galaxies exist.
· Dark Matter in the Cosmos
The rotation of some galaxies is so fast that the matter that we can see in them doesn’t have enough mass to hold it together. Hence, they should fly off and the galaxies should break apart but this isn’t the case. The fact that they are held together is evidence that there is more matter than we can see. More compelling evidence that our theories of gravity and space aren’t wrong and that there is invisible matter out there is that there are galaxies whose rotation does line up with the amount of mass we see in them. So, in a way, this lack of dark matter is, ironically, evidence of dark matter.
· Dark Energy in the Cosmos
In 1929, Edwin Hubble looked up in the night sky and discovered that all galaxies are moving away from each other. Every galaxy he saw was moving away at a constant speed. Combined with Einstein adding a cosmological constant to his equations, speculating that the cosmos was but dull and static, it was discovered that space itself is expanding. You can think of it as the surface of a balloon expanding as you inflate it. It was discovered later on that this expansion is, in fact, accelerating. Current estimates put dark energy at about 68% of the entire cosmos.
Could We be Alone?
In the 1990s using the wobble method, a giant planet was discovered around a star. Following that, a few more were discovered. This meant that the sun wasn’t the only star with planets and scientists started speculating that planet formation may be a part of, or at least, closely related to, star formation. In 2009, Kepler, the first planet hunting space telescope, discovered this. During its time up, it sent back unparalleled amounts of data, discovering thousands of planets around stars which lead scientists to confirm that every single star in the sky has, at the very least, 1 planet orbiting it and many of them are rocky planets while a few are at the Goldilocks zone of their star.
This universe is enormous and we know almost nothing about it. For all we know, there could be billions of beings in the cosmos, probably sentient, like us, maybe even far superior. We are nothing but self-proclaimed ‘civil’ beings living on a pale blue dot in the endless wretches of emptiness. How do we fit into all of this? What is our purpose in this void of uncertainty?
The Philosophy of the Cosmos and Nature
If the above so-called ‘facts’ aren’t enough to blow your mind, just see for yourself. Everywhere you look, you see nothing but perfection governed by laws, absolute principles that tell the cosmos how to move. Everything around us is made to be exactly in coherence with the laws of nature. Because these laws were made to provide stability. Although stability did not give birth to these laws, these laws account for stability. Every single thing around us is exactly where it should be for us to thrive in our acclaimed time here. Maybe we only say so because we’re here and anything else wouldn’t have us here to say so. But what would stop it from creating something completely different.
The only question that remains for now is that can perfection, even locally for the realm of the universe, be made out of random? By chance? Was everything made out of absolutely nothing? Think for yourself. When you see a chair or a table just sitting there, do you wonder that it was made out of a random series of spontaneous actions? So, it’s only logical for the common mind to think that this whole universe, as gigantic as it is, is the work of a master clock-maker. One that controls everything in his hands, whether it’s this universe or countless others. There has to be something beyond what we perceive, setting things in motion. Why we can’t interact or why He is beyond our senses is a topic that deserves its own debate.
What we can do for now is but help ourselves to admire the unparalleled blessings that surround us. Yes blessings, made for us. Maybe not for this lifetime only. But even if so, maybe, He wants us to know Him, know what He is, and know if He can create this whole universe just for this limited period of time, the life after, for which He promises endless blessings and eternal satisfaction, is anything but a fantasy.
When compared to the vastness that lies in this universe, we are absolutely nothing. Yet, we are the ones that can make a difference. That is, by helping and being there for each other. We can also make a difference by being associates in happiness and sorrow. By aiding at time of need, by gaining and utilizing our knowledge in a positive way, to conduct and prosper. We live on this minute dot in an infinitesimally compact region of space. Yet, all this insolence, all this arrogance and all this hate just to have an edge in this even more negligible period in time.
Those who have come before us have shown that we can completely alter the course of our spec of the cosmos because of our ascribed aptitude, the ability to think and induce thought. Therefore, the key to that lies in our own hands and what we think of ourselves and what we perceive of ourselves. There may be other beings on other worlds like ours, who knows? Because, the Almighty’s creations are independent of merely our knowledge. We should rest assured that His creations are in fact infinite, which is but another sign of what He is, because how can they not be? Your God is only as small as your universe. In our case, our size doesn’t matter, what matters is us.
Shawaz Lodhi is a freelance writer and a sports freak.