Our Amazing Universe

Our universe abounds with galaxies of awesome size and energy. For example, consider our Milky Way galaxy. It contains over 100 billion stars. Some scientists estimate at least 200 to 400 billion. And one science editor even stated: “There could be as many as five to ten trillion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.”

It's difficult to grasp numbers like that, so think about this: If you wanted to travel from one side of the galaxy at the speed of light, 186,282 miles per second, and for whatever reason, you wanted to reach the other side today, you would have had to start about 100,000 years ago.

Individual galaxies are arranged in clusters that move in orbits in relation to each other. Our  Milky Way is part of a cluster of about 20 galaxies. One cluster is thought to contain about 10,000 galaxies. And current evidence shows that these galaxy clusters are arranged in gigantic "superclusters."

The entire universe is governed by very precise laws of physics. Rocket scientist Werner von Braun said: "The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second."

Our sun is certainly a wonder of creation. It is considered a yellow dwarf, and is just a candle compared to many other stars, but it's just right for us. This yellow dwarf accounts for about 99% of the mass of our solar system. It is located an average distance of 93,000,000 miles from Earth, and only one billionth of its radiant energy actually reaches our planet, but it's just the right amount for the light, heat and energy we need to sustain life.

Scientists estimate that the total energy output of the sun could sustain life on 31 trillion planets like Earth. If we were able to harness all of the sun’s power output for only 1 second, we could power the United States at its current power usage for 9,000,000 years, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The Earth is a unique marvel, too. It has many natural systems designed to produce food, water, air and support life in other ways. Freeman Dyson, a theoretical physicist and mathematician, famous for his work in quantum mechanics, solid-state physics and nuclear engineering, wrote in Scientific American: "As we look out into the universe and identify the many accidents of physics and astronomy that have worked together to our benefit, it almost seems as if the universe must in some sense have known that we were coming."

Louise Young wrote in The Blue Planet: "The more we explore the black expanses of space, the more we recognize that our own earth is an exceptional planet—the Garden of Eden of the solar system. There is no other piece of matter within a hundred billion miles that is so richly endowed with variety and beauty . . . A few decades ago the imagination of man endowed the planet Mars with intelligent beings . . . Now the truth is known. If any life exists there, it is microscopic . . . Suddenly we are aware that the earth is a very special place. In some ways it may even be unique in the universe."

Was this all just an accident of chance, or do you see it as evidence of a higher intelligence?

© 2008 Kelly Cheek