NASA’s Voyager I probe left our solar system this past week, thirty-six (36) years after lifting off from the earth in 1977. I was still in high school then. In that time, it has traveled 11.5 billion miles and is just now pulling away from the influence of our sun. (See Fox News and voyager.jpl.nasa.gov) There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy, the Milky Way, but we have only begun to look for and research other solar systems. We do not have any idea how many solar systems exist in our galaxy. We confirmed the first planets outside our solar system for the first time in the mid-1990’s; and then we only detected them by the “gentle tugs” caused by those planets as they orbit their stars. (See Nasa’s spaceplace.nasa.gov)
Today, scientists have discovered more than 500 solar systems in the Milky Way. They estimate there might be tens of billions of solar systems, maybe even 100 billion more than our solar system!
Astronomers estimate there are at least one hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe! Imagine one hundred billion galaxies, each with 100 billion solar systems! And that is all we can see! According to physics.org, a grain of sand held up to the sky would cover 10,000 galaxies (not solar systems, but galaxies – like our Milky Way).
We live in a vast universe. More vast than most of realize or think about on a regular basis, other than the NASA scientists and quantum physicists among us. The Voyager I probe is going where no man-made object has gone before, but we are only now putting our toe in the water of the universe.