The most profound photo ever taken

Next time you’re outside, stretch out your hand and hold two fingers as close to touching as you can. That’s about a square millimetre.

Now look around the sky. Think of how many arms-length square millimetres there are to fill the entire sky you see. Then double it, because there’s the whole other half of the sky you can’t see from where you are. It’s about one thirteen-millionth of the sky. Let that sink in for a minute.

That is approximate size of the Hubble Ultra Deep Field, and contains an estimated ten thousand galaxies. Remember for a moment that each galaxy has between ten million and a hundred trillion stars each. Think about that for a long moment.

Then this year came along the Hubble Extreme Deep Field, which is a longer look at a portion of that one square millimetre, and found an additional five thousand more galaxies, looking back over thirteen billion years into the past.

When this image started to make the rounds, I was dismayed how little attention it got, like the Hubble Ultra Deep Field did, but take a moment to look at it (don’t worry, I’ll wait):


Every point of light there is a galaxy, made of of billions and billions of stars. Our galaxy is made up of about two hundred billion stars, for example. The numbers boggle my mind.

I can throw around more numbers, but if you aren’t getting it by now, you probably won’t, and are in dire need of a long vacation.

This photograph reminds me how tiny insignificant we are; as a species, as a planet, solar system…

If I had to sum this photograph with a word, it would be wonder.  I look at the thousands of galaxies and get lost in the seemingly endless possibilities and just get awestruck by the scale of it.



2 thoughts on “The most profound photo ever taken”

  1. And all that space is for us ;)

    To be honest, I can’t even fathom what that all means. It makes the resource limitation of our planet look silly when you consider how many potential planets are out there in the universe. We just have to learn how to travel faster so we can take advantage of it all.

    I, too, am amazed at how little attention such things get. A bigger part of educating a child should be on the wonders of the universe. I have never even been to a planetarium, but I’ve read about them, and seen them in movies, but I feel like everyone should have that experience where they get to experience the vastness of space and all its wonders.

  2. I know! We could be a member of a vast number of civilizations… or, so profoundly depressingly alone.

    What does it mean? … Be excellent to one another.

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