The image above may look like the night sky filled with stars, but in fact each spot of light you see is an entire galaxy.
Pause for a moment and really drink that in. Each source of light you see is a galaxy, filled with stars, planets, moons, comets, asteroids, nebulae, quazars, pulsars, black holes, dark matter, and, possibly, some form of life.
How Many Stars Are Out There?
The Milky Way has about 100 billion stars. Using the Milky Way as our model, we can multiply the number of stars in a typical galaxy (100 billion) by the number of galaxies in the universe (2 trillion).
There are approximately 200 billion trillion stars in the universe. Or, to put it another way, 200 sextillion.
That’s 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! — Brian Jackson, Associate Professor of Astronomy, Boise State University
I don’t know about you, but that number staggers me. It’s more than my mind can fathom. 200 sextillion stars, each one a possibility.
Is There a Mathematical Probability of Life?
“There are four hundred billion stars out there, just in our galaxy alone. If only one out of a million of those had planets, and just of out of a million of those had life, and just one out of a million of those had intelligent life; there would be literally millions of civilizations out there.” — Contact (1997)
Whether you believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life or not, all those numbers can’t help but make you wonder. At least, it makes me wonder. I’m a ‘glass is half-full’ person, I suppose. I tend to believe in the possibility, simply because we have no proof either way. I’d rather believe in the beautiful possibility than limit my perceptions to the cold, stark black and white.
Keeping an open mind about possibilities also means I ask a lot of questions, to which there are rarely black and white answers. Questions like, why should I believe Humanity is alone in the universe?
Wondering While Wandering
Humans are, by their very nature, curious creatures. The unknown is alluring, after all. If it wasn’t, we might still be living in caves, grunting and pointing rather than doing all the remarkable (and sometimes not so remarkable) things we now are able to do, because someone along the way was curious.
We don’t have all the answers, and probably never will, but there are ample questions to consider. Such as, should consciousness and spirituality only apply to humanity? Why should it not apply to all creation, whether flesh or stone, bark or gelatinous, alien or earthly?
Why shouldn’t life have sprung up elsewhere in the vastness of the cosmos? Aren’t the building-blocks of life present everywhere? And who’s to say life has to be what we consider life? Must it be flesh and blood of some sort, or could it be something else entirely. Energy perhaps. Gaseous. Infintesimal or gargantuine.
Perhaps, like the aspen grove in Utah that consists of over 47,000 individual trees yet is one organism, life elsewhere in the universe might be similarly designed.
Conspiracy Theories Aside
Media of all sorts have led us to believe aliens mutilate animals, abduct people to experiment on them, and are plotting to take over the planet, but what if they’re not? What if all the horror stories are just that? What if ET really is like ET? Or, for that matter, like us?
Curious. Explorers. Fragile.
“There are more things of Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — Shakespeare
We live in a time where little is unknown, yet, all that is known is little in comparison to that which is unknown.
Being then lead by faith and truth and virtue, we seek and question, knowing that we can only ever touch the most infinitesimal surface of All that Is.
Photo by Guillermo Ferla