Have you ever wondered where you stack up, perspective wise, within the universe or even with another human being? (So now you know some of the things that float through the open transom of my mind and rattle around my cranium.) Hey, I told you all from the VERY beginning that it can sometimes get a little weird from my side. Oh, yeah..Back to the heart of why I’m writing this. So let’s start at the place you live at this point in time.
You live at a particular physical point. In a building. On a block. Your block is on street. In a neighborhood. In a town. That town might be part of a larger city, in a county, in a state, and/or in a nation of other states that make up a country. Most will live in a country that combines with other countries to make up a continent, and the continents form the planet where we all live. Welcome to planet earth, the only shared space for all human beings. OK, so feeling small yet? No??? Just wait. I haven’t beGUN to get us there.
Still with me? Good. Soooo….
Our beloved planet is 1 of 9 in an area that we can’t even cross due to current technology limitations, and these nine planets orbit a sun to form our solar system. Now keep in mind that units of distance at this point forward are going to be measured in light years.
Wikipedia defines a light year this way.
The light-year is a unit of length used to express astronomical distances. It is about 9.5 quadrillion metres or 5.9 trillion miles.[note 1] As defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), a light-year is the distance that light travels in vacuum in one Julian year (365.25 days). Because it includes the word “year”, the term light-year is sometimes misinterpreted as a unit of time.
The light-year is most often used when expressing distances to stars and other distances on a galactic scale, especially in nonspecialist and popular science publications. The unit usually used in professional astrometry is the parsec (symbol: pc, about 3.26 light-years; the distance at which one astronomical unit subtends an angle of one second of arc)
So, understanding that, let’s continue our voyage to the land of ultimate perspective.
Our solar system is in a solar neighborhood where our closest neighbors are 20 light-years (118 trillion miles) in either direction from our sun. Now, our solar neighborhood is part of a galaxy called the Milky Way, but we are 25,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way. The Milky Way is only 1 of at LEAST a hundred billion other galaxies, and each galaxy forms groups called clusters. Each cluster is about 4 million light years across, and combine to form…anyone…Beuller…anyone…super clusters. Our super cluster, approximately 150 million light years across, is but one sliver in the known universe. Your head may be spinning a bit to visualize all this, so here’s a link for a great map to show you the universe and what I have just tried to put into words.
SO…how do you feel now? Well let me tell you how you should feel. Pretty fucking special. Because you are. Think about it. If you put all that distance and probability into a statistical formula you’d realize the rarity of the chance you and I were even born to have me write this and you read it. It would possibly require a supercomputer that hasn’t even been invented yet to calculate those odds the chance is so infinitesimally small. But it did happen. You and I were born. And we are each so, incredibly special.
…and here we are.