So, this is you:
1. This is you from about 30,000 feet. Cruising altitude:
3. Someone jumped out of a balloon from this height, back in 1960:
In this Aug. 16, 1960 photo made available by the U.S. Air Force, Col. Joe Kittinger steps off a balloon-supported gondola at an altitude of 102,800 feet. In freefall for 4.5 minutes at speeds up to 614 mph and temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, he opened his parachute at 18,000 feet.
4. This is you from about 200 miles, or more than 10 times the altitude of the highest human jump. This is where the ISS lives:
5. The first man to reach this height, Yuri Gagarin, did it in this tiny sphere:
7. Now, this is the Earth from the moon, about 230,000 miles away:
8. The farthest a human has ever been from home is 248,655 miles, when the Apollo 13 spacecraft made its risky trip around the dark side of the moon:
This was taken by the crew.
9. And this is Earth from Mars, which is over 30 MILLION miles away. This is the next place humans will go, in theory:
The Apollo missions took about ten days each. A Mars mission would take at least six months, and likely be a one-way trip.
11. But during the day, it looks pretty much just like home:
15. Now let’s keep going. This is what Earth looks like as you’re leaving the solar system, 3.7 billion miles away. Pluto-ish area:
“From Voyager’s great distance Earth is a mere point of light, less than the size of a picture element even in the narrow-angle camera. Earth was a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.”
16. Obviously 3.7 billion miles is really, really far. But you also have to consider that Earth is pretty tiny:
17. Here’s what Jupiter would look like from Earth if it were as close as the moon
(we’re just getting started)
22. But as massive as stars are, they’re microscopic compared to galaxies they live in. This is our galaxy, the Milky Way:
23. Oh, by the way, the closest galaxy to ours, which also has billions of stars, is going to slam into us eventually. Here’s what NASA thinks it will look like from Earth:
This will happen in four billion years, which seems like a long time. But the Earth did exist four billion years ago, and it might well exist then. This probably wouldn’t end well for us, whatever “us” will mean in 4,000,000,2012 AD.
24. So yes, there are millions, billions, and sometimes trillions of stars in each galaxy. But how many galaxies are there? In 2003, NASA pointed the Hubble telescope at a minuscule dark patch in the night sky:
25. They took hundreds of pictures over about three months, for over 11 days’ worth of exposure time. They came back with this:
Feeling small yet?
26. In that tiny little dark patch of sky were 10,000+ galaxies, many bigger than our own:
Because of how far away they are, and the speed at which light travels, this photo shows these galaxies as they were over 12 billion years ago. Many of them no longer exist.