The Estimated Number of Stars in the Universe Just Tripled

By Andrew Moseman | December 1, 2010 4:41 pm

EGalaxyA study by Yale astronomer Pieter van Dokkum just took the estimated number of stars in the universe—100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 100 sextillion—and tripled it. And you thought nothing good ever happens on Wednesdays.

Van Dokkum’s study in the journal Nature focuses on red dwarfs, a class of small, cool stars. They’re so small and cool, in fact, that up to now astronomers haven’t been able to spot them in galaxies outside our own. That’s a serious holdup when you’re trying to account for all the stars there are.

As a consequence, when estimating how much of a galaxy’s mass stars account for – important to understanding a galaxy’s life history – astronomers basically had to assume that the relative abundance of red-dwarf stars found in the Milky Way held true throughout the universe for every galaxy type and at every epoch of the universe’s evolution, Dr. van Dokkum says. “We always knew that was sort of a stretch, but it was the only thing we had. Until you see evidence to the contrary you kind of go with that assumption,” he says. [Christian Science Monitor]

But van Dokkum’s team, using the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, surveyed eight elliptical galaxies nearby (between about 50 and 300 million light years away) for these dim stars. Their spectrometer could catch the collective signature of these faraway red dwarfs and estimate how many of them the neighbor galaxies harbor. In the Milky Way there are about 100 red dwarfs for every one star like the sun, but in these galaxies that number may be more like 1,000 to one.

Elliptical galaxies are some of the largest galaxies in the universe. The largest of these galaxies were thought to hold more than 1 trillion stars (compared with the 400 billion stars in our Milky Way). The new finding suggests there may be five to 10 times as many stars inside elliptical galaxies than previously thought, which would triple the total number of known stars in the universe, researchers said. [Space.com]

While van Dokkum’s Nature paper was released to the public today, it’s been raising a more private ruckus already:

For the past month, astronomers have been buzzing about van Dokkum’s findings, and many aren’t too happy about it, said astronomer Richard Ellis of the California Institute of Technology. Van Dokkum’s paper challenges the assumption of “a more orderly universe” and gives credence to “the idea that the universe is more complicated than we think,” Ellis said. “It’s a little alarmist.” Ellis said it is too early to tell if van Dokkum is right or wrong, but it is shaking up the field “like a cat among pigeons.” Van Dokkum agreed, saying, “Frankly, it’s a big pain.” [AP]

And besides tripling the number of stars in the universe (isn’t that enough??) and infuriating some astronomers, van Dokkum’s find has some serious secondary implications. More stars, of course, means the opportunity for more planets, and many recently found exoplanets orbit red dwarfs. That includes Gliese 7b, the would-be Goldilocks planet, and GJ 1214, which the same issue of Nature reports could possibly have an atmosphere of steam.

Furthermore, the plethora of red dwarfs could explain a dark matter mystery:

Elliptical galaxies posed a problem: The motions of the stars they contained implied that they had more mass than one would get by adding the mass of the normal matter astronomers observed to the expected amount of dark matter in the neighborhood. Some suggested that ellipticals somehow had extra dark matter associated with them. Instead, the newly detected red dwarfs could account for the difference, van Dokkum says. [Christian Science Monitor]

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space
  • Brian Hurt

    There are other galaxies within 50 million miles? That’s a little close, don’t you think?

    Maybe you meant “50 to 300 million light years”.

  • ghoppe

    The near-mystical and exotic explanations for “Dark Matter” have always rubbed me the wrong way and struck me as anti-Occam’s Razor. We deal with dust obscuring stars in our observations of the Milky Way all the time. Why did we have to come up with exotic explanations for Dark Matter when it could just be there are many more dim or obscured stars than we estimate that we just can’t detect (yet)?

    I welcome this development!

  • http://discovermagazine.com Andrew Moseman

    @Brian
    Yeah, you’re right, that was a typo by me. Fixed.

  • Bob D

    It’s going to end up being exactly a mole, isn’t it. And that will prove that the definition of the gram was inspired by cosmic mind-energies. Whoa.

    @ghoppe… I keep hearing the Occam’s razor thing for dark matter, but it doesn’t cut it for me. Of all the odd things the Universe continues to reveal, what reason would anyone have to presume that everything should interact with electromagnetic radiation? We already know of at least one extremely common form of matter that does no such thing – what reason do we have for imposing the presumption that there’s nothing more? Take away that presumption, and all your razor tells you is that we don’t know what invisible matter is out there.

  • ChH

    ghoppe, I agree with the sentiment. The problem now is that while we might need less of the dark matter fudge factor, we also need more of the dark energy fudge factor to explain the supposed acceleration in the universe’s expansion.

  • Ron

    @BobD: Finding more “normal stuff” is a heck of a lot less sexy than postulating Mysterious New Stuff, and thus is much more likely to be the correct answer.

    It doesn’t win you Nobel Prizes, though, or get you on the Discover Channel.

  • http://hdwebdesign.org/photography Michael Benin

    You cannot estimate something that is infinite. You could say that is how many stars we may be possibly be aware of.

  • Bob D

    @Ron: I guess I don’t see the “and we don’t know what other invisible stuff might be contributing to the mass of the cosmos” as especially sexy. Just bog standard scientific admission of the limits of our understanding.

    It’s not a matter of postulating Mysterious New Stuff – it’s the fact that it seems unjustifiable to declare that matter as we know it is all there is.

    We don’t need to postulate new stuff – it’s completely the other way around. We need to relax our tendency to want to postulate that we know all the stuff of the cosmos already. I don’t see what’s revolutionary in the notion that there could be dark matter.

    What’s amazing is that we have some (albeit indirect) means to quantify its presence, and even something of its distribution.

    The findings reported above certainly don’t go anywhere near dispensing with it – these red dwarfs may be numerous but they don’t add up to much gravitationally.

  • Brian Too

    @4. Bob D,

    No, it isn’t the same thing at all. I presume you are talking about neutrinos. Neutrinos have sound physical theory (Standard Model) and direct detection to back up their existence.

    With Dark Matter and Dark Energy, we are supposed to believe in “undetectable” entities, thus relieving both the theoreticians and the experimentalists of any responsibility whatsoever. Hey, it’s Miller time, let’s all go home early today! I know that I exaggerate, but it’s not much of an exaggeration.

    All the DM/DE believers have to go on are gravitational studies of objects that are so remote, they could be made of antimatter and we wouldn’t know it. In fact we couldn’t know it. Furthermore because distance = time in the universe, these objects we see are billions of years in the past relative to us. It’s just as plausible that measures we think of as universal constants, may not in fact be constant over such vast spans of time.

  • Ron

    If only 5% (which is the figure that I’ve read) of all Matter is of known type, and some similar fraction of all energy is “known”, then why are astrophysicists making all sorts of grand pronouncements about the Universe?

    They should shelve all current theories until they know something more than “Something is out there, but we have no clue as to what it is; nevertheless we’ll hypothesize anyway.”

  • Bob D

    @9 Brian, Dark matter studies don’t involve anything so remote as you’re suggesting.

    What is observed is a source of gravitational attraction that clusters around galaxies and is concentrated at their core. Which happens to be precisely what would be expected of a gas of massive weakly-interacting particles, which we could very easily have failed to detect directly, so some people like that idea.

    We have no reason at all to assert that there isn’t anything out there that doesn’t interact with electromagnetic radiation, and plenty of evidence that suggests there is.

    Nobody’s asking you to believe in anything. That’s just what’s observed.

    I’m interested in why people try so hard to argue along the lines of ‘surely there can’t be more things we don’t know about?’ Surely there can!!

    @Ron Dark matter is a hypothesis. All of science is hypothesis in a sense – it’s a matter of degree that determines how well accepted they are. The dark matter hypothesis is pretty well accepted, but not entirely by any means. Astrophysicists say what they think, they never pronounce dogmatically from on high, and should never be read as if they are. Here’s an idea, here’s how well we know it. That’s all any science should ever say to anyone.

  • http://www.scientopia.org/blogs/galacticinteractions Rob Knop

    Dark Matter isn’t just a fudge factor, it’s *real*. We know it exists. Yes, a lot of the evidence is that the motions of galaxies don’t match the amount of detected matter… but we also have *direct* evidence that most of the mass in a galaxy cluster is not where most of the baryonic mass is. Cf: Bullet Cluster, et al.

    Also, Bob D hits it on the head. Remember that Occam’s Razor says not just that “the simplest explanation is the best”, but really that the simplest explanation that explains all the evidence is the best. Make your model as simple as possible, but no simpler. Before the interacting cluster evidence, you could argue aesthetics all day as to whether an unknown new particle or modifying Newton’s well-established law of gravitation (in very non-relativistic regimes) was a bigger mess… but the interacting cluster evidence says that dark matter is *real*, and it’s nonbaryonic. That goes together with the dynamics evidence, and the modeling evidence of structure growth in the Universe.

    Another way Bob D hits the nail on the head: Dark Matter, in a sense, is an extension of the Copernican Principle. There was a time when placing the Sun at the center of the Solar System, and having the Earth orbit around it, seemed absurd to many. Just look outside; you don’t feel yourself moving, and you see the Sun moving. There was strong philosophical bias that the Earth was the Center. But eventually, extended versions of Copernicus’ model were shown to much better explain the facts. The philosophical bias that Earth was at the center came from thinking that we were the center of everything.

    Extend that a bit… why SHOULD most of the Unvierse be made out of the same stuff that we are made out of, and that our star is made out of? It’s antrocentric bias to believe that that is how it ought to be. If anything, we should be more suprised if there *weren’t* a lot of stuff out there that doesn’t interact via electromagnetism, and is hard for us to detect.

    The evidence for dark matter is extremely strong now. It’s not a fudge factor, it’s a model that has a wide range of support from a wide range of detections. You don’t have to like it, but your aesthetic sense isn’t a reason to reject it any more than an aesthetic sense that “God does not play dice” is a reason to reject the stochastic nature of Quantum Mechanics in the face of a mountain of evidence.

  • Cazakatari

    @Rob

    I get irritated when people start saying we ”know” things or that they’re ”real” in a scientific discussion. Science gives no absolute assurance of anything, only large statistical likelihoods (which are not infallible, no matter how likely). Using your example, several centuries ago, everyone ”knew” the world was flat, and that the Sun orbited the Earth. We like to tell ourselves that we’re so much smarter and more informed than in the past, but that’s what basically every society has told itself since the beginning of time, so it would be arrogant to believe we’re any more immune to false assumptions than societies in the past.

    That said I completely agree that it shouldn’t be a surprise to us if all the matter in the universe isn’t like what we see here locally, but unless I’m mistaken a scientist should remain very skeptical of something that cannot be directly measured. Yes, from our observations we know there must be something else at work than we can see, but since apparently two thirds of the stars of the universe can somehow escape our notice for so long, is it much of a stretch to think that perhaps there are other sources of normal matter we aren’t detecting (for whatever reason) that could explain a lot more of the mysterious missing matter?

  • http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Class/intro_physics_1.php Robert G. Brown

    I think the point about dark matter and dark energy is that most of the evidence for them is based on certain assumptions, the primary one being that we can see all of the baryonic matter in a galaxy or galactic cluster from at least hundreds of millions of light years away. The reason the red dwarf surplus is a problem for this whole body of evidence is that it suggests that there could be a whole lot of perfectly ordinary baryonic matter in galaxies that we don’t see, that our simple extrapolations based on our own galaxy don’t hold in various other galaxy types. Even in the Milky Way, it isn’t terribly clear that we have an accurate idea of the distribution of e.g. brown dwarfs or objects smaller than a brown dwarf (and even dimmer) all the way down to gas giants that aren’t associated with suns. Most of our estimates are based on various statistical assumptions and a highly imperfect model of stellar formation in various environments. DIrect measurements of sub-stellar object formation in the full range of galactic environments is all but impossible even in our own galaxy — gas giant sized objects that aren’t close to a sun would be completely invisible (we have been able to detect them only on the last decade or so when they are NEXT to a sun).

    This is the real problem. Dark matter isn’t the same thing as matter that doesn’t interact with electromagnetic radiation. Sometimes dark just means — dark, as in not externally illuminated and not particularly radiant. And the discovery that we are off by as much as an order of magnitude in our guesses concerning a distribution of matter we CAN (it turns out) see suggests that we might well be off by an order of magnitude in other related estimates.

    So regarding Ockham’s razor. We have two explanations:

    * There’s a lot more ordinary matter in galaxies than we think, but it happens to be dark as in not illuminated or radiant. More red dwarfs, brown dwarfs, more orphan gas giants, even more orphan rocky planets wandering around in between visible stars, perhaps 2, 3, even 10 times as much of this as we guestimated on the basis of our limited ability to see in the past. Who would be surprised by this? Seriously. It’s like being surprised that there are a lot of exoplanets, which are being discovered at something like a rate of one a day now (where there were NO known exoplanets not terribly long ago). It’s not really surprising at all, if you think about it.

    * There’s a lot more matter in galaxies that we think, and it is completely different from any of the matter that we can observe at hand. We don’t directly observe it in our accelerators — when collisions with enough energy to create all sorts of particles happen, they never happen to create “dark matter”. We obviously don’t see it anywhere — it is dark. We can’t prove that it isn’t there. — we can’t see it. Our only evidence that it exists is indirect and involves observations of things very far away that CLEARLY have potential mundane explanations that don’t involve new physics, and hence are not as exciting.

    The first explanation is good science in the specific sense that it is highly plausible. That’s the “unsurprising” part. The second one sounds exactly like the reason some people believe in fairies. Invisible fairies are responsible for gravity, not curvature of space or gravitons. How do they work? They do what they have to do to explain the data, of course! Why can’t we see them? Because they are invisible, stupid! How do we know they are there? Well, things fall, don’t they? But what if there is a much simpler explanation for falling things that doesn’t involve invoking the possible existence of invisible entities?

    Well, you can’t prove that it ISN’T invisible fairies, can you? Because duh, they are invisible.

    This wouldn’t be particularly tragic right up to the point where one looks into the fraction of all grant money in high energy physics and cosmology that is currently devoted to looking for the damn invisible fairies, compared to how much is looking for the dwarfs we can actually see but that aren’t as “cute” as we imagine the fairies that we can’t see to be.

    This is in no way trying to assert that the NEW PHYSICS dark matter explanation cannot be right, only that it has never, frankly, been the most plausible explanation. While we should never stop looking for new physics, we should also never stop looking at the explanatory power of the physics we already have, especially if by changing a few assumptions within perfectly reasonable ranges we can eliminate the need for new physics altogether.

    rgb

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Douglas Watts

    “This wouldn’t be particularly tragic right up to the point where one looks into the fraction of all grant money in high energy physics and cosmology that is currently devoted to looking for the damn invisible fairies, compared to how much is looking for the dwarfs we can actually see but that aren’t as “cute” as we imagine the fairies that we can’t see to be.”

    Grant Funding Conspiracy Fail. As soon as you rely upon a ‘grant funding conspiracy’ as your key reason to refute thousands of scientists who independently reach a certain web of conclusions that do not even completely agree with each other, then you have entered Richard C. Hoagland territory.

  • http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Class/intro_physics_1.php Robert G. Brown

    Or perhaps I’m just remembering earlier fads in physics such as supersymmetry that got a lot of funding for a while that then petered out. And hey, I don’t begrudge anyone the money — it keeps a bunch of physicists off of welfare. But as I understand the argument between the MACHOS and the WIMPs, red dwarfs were supposedly already ruled out as candidates for cold dark matter because earlier surveys found that they could only account for perhaps 20% of the required halo mass. If they are in fact many times more common than these initial surveys dictated, this is indeed a serious problem for the WIMPS. Which are, gosh, related to the same darn fad, supersymmetry, that is still quite popular in spite of the fact that “none of the large number of new particles in supersymmetry has been observed” — courtesy of the WIMP wikipedia page.

    Don’t get me at all wrong — it WOULD be very cool if there were new particles, new physics out there. But the bete noir of scientific research, especially in theoretical physics in the more esoteric realms, is confirmation bias mixed in with a lack of direct data in experiments that “should” produce things. Attractive as the Higgs particle is, it is still an invisible fairy. So is the magnetic monopole — one of my favorite invisible fairies, as it would explain so very much and be amazingly interesting. And hey, monopoles should be very massive, and cannot bind to normal matter and so will tend to fall into the center of their local gravitational wells, safely hidden from prying EM eyes. Maybe they are the missing matter! Time to write a proposal…

    Where I’m only half kidding — the place to look for monopoles is at the bottom of gravitational wells, because I cannot for the life of me imagine how a magnetic monopole can bind to a normal atom, leaving them little option but to rattle on down to the center of the earth, or asteroid, or whatever. But UNTIL one actually runs down a monopole and puts salt on its tail, they remain snipe in a massive snipe hunt.

    Then there are hidden dimension theories (that darn “hidden” again) like superstrings, quantum gravity, straight up modification of gravitation, fifth forces… I love it all, honestly — I’m a theorist myself. But theoretical physics goes smoothly over into speculative mathematics at some point where evidence fails us, and then people can get rich selling each other rocks. Not because of a “conspiracy” — I don’t doubt anyone’s good will. Perhaps it is sheer boredom, waiting for a breakthrough experiment or the next generation of eyes in the sky that will let us SEE the darned things.

    I suppose I’m happier with the MACHO objects that at least have the property of definite existence in quantities that are not insanely incompatible with the observed phenomenon compared to the proposed WIMP objects that are, in the end, still invisible (however PERFECTLY they might work — in theory, if they exist at all). With the exception of the neutrino, which has the virtue of definitely existing, being easy to produce in the laboratory and the vice of being a bit difficult to either detect or fit to the evidence.

    rgb

  • http://www.limohiredirectory.co.uk Limo

    It estimate by astronomers that there are about 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or more stars in the universe & universe is not small as we all know. Their are so many Galaxy’s in the universe. when we look at our milky-way galaxy, it have many stars in it so according to probability their was 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or more stars in the universe. Because no one know how big Universe are.

  • http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Class/intro_physics_1.php Robert G. Brown

    Right. When teaching astronomy I (and my other colleague here who teaches it) try to be very careful to state “in the visible Universe”. Logical positivism aside, there is absolutely no good reason to assume that the Universe terminates abruptly or otherwise on the Big Bang/Big Dark event horizon that more or less limits the range of our vision. Indeed, there are good reasons to think that no such thing happens (that all depend on assumptions that obviously cannot be experimentally tested, providing one massive counterexample to the idea that logical positivism and either falsifiability or verifiability are the true measure of probable knowledge).

    rgb

  • pheldespat

    Here you have (most of) your Dark Matter. Now, find more unknown brown dwarfs and exotic DM will be no more.

  • Bob D

    Most of? Nope, not at all.

    Some people really loathe this dark matter idea don’t they? Not sure that this attitude of wanting to jump gleefully on anything even hinting at something that sounds like it could be pointing in another direction is particularly compatible with science. But hey, whatever you guys want to put your faith in, that’s cool. No point me arguing with y’all.

    Dread to think what random opinions would surface if anyone mentions dark energy :-)

  • Ruth F

    Hey, everyone, very interesting discussion.

    Here’s the problem I have (as a non-scientist) with dark matter: there’s a lot more of it than visible matter, sure, okay, and it’s all through the Milky Way, okay, and it’s gravitationally attracted to itself, hence the clumps around which galaxies formed, and of course ordinary matter is gravitationally attracted to it. I’m totally on board with all of that.

    But then there’s a point at which it stops being attracted to itself. It doesn’t coalesce into dark stars and dark planets and it apparently passes right through ordinary matter without stopping, otherwise the Sun and all the planets would be much more massive than they are. Is that a fairly accurate summary?

    Given that physicists are apparently comfortable with the thought of dark matter having some variable type of gravity, why do they not also consider that regular matter might have variable gravity.

    Sorry, poor use of technical terms, I’m sure.

    I really would appreciate some thoughts on this. Thanks.

  • Jim

    MY GOD IS A BIG GOD !

  • David Pirtle

    These findings aren’t a problem for the dark matter hypothesis. They bring observation into line with the hypothesis, thus making it more likely, not less.

  • brendan

    And all created in 6 days by a god who really gets concerned about who I sleep with

  • http://whatreallyhappened.com Michael Rivero

    This is a totally nonsense article, on the same intellectual level as arguing over how many angels dance on the head of a pin.

    At our present technology, we see the universe extending out to the dame distance in all directions. At present that is about 14 billion light years. In no direction do we see a sudden drop off indicating the edge of the cosmos. Now unless the Earth is at the exact center of the universe, the most likely probability is that the universe is really far larger and our limited technology only sees the small bubble surrounding us within a much more vast reality.

    That the universe must be larger than this article implies is obvious. Our telescopes see galaxies out to 13.5 billion light years. But that is not where those galaxies are right now but where they were 13.5 billion years ago, roughly half a billion years after the supposed Big Bang. In order to reach 13.5 billion light years’ distance from Earth in just half a billion years, said galaxy must be traveling at over 15 times the speed of light for than entire half billion years, yet even in the most “epicyclic” theorizing of the Big-Bangers trying to reconcile the theology of a creation moment with the realities of relativity, the speed of light was an unbreakable barrier starting at three seconds after the singularity somehow-kinda-sort-of-because-god-made-it-happen escaped from its own massive singularity.

    But let us set that aside for a moment.

    The Big Bang theory rests on the Doppler red shift and the ASSUMPTION that relative velocity is the only cause for that observed red shift. That the observed stellar red shift is quantized suggests some other mechanism is at work, but for the moment let us stipulate that the bangers are correct and the massive red shift seen in that galaxy 13.5 billion light years from Earth indicates that said galaxy is receding from us at considerable velocity. But again, we are seeing that galaxy not as it is today, but as it was 13.5 billion years ago. At that outward velocity, doesn’t it make sense that the galaxy is now much further away? More distant than our technology can see? Does that not mean the universe must be much larger than what our technology sees, making guesses about the numbers of stars rather pointless?

  • Bob D

    @Ruth, there are good reasons to believe that the dark matter particles are travelling very quickly and hardly interact with each other – or with anything else. Gravity doesn’t cause clumping – that requires close-range ‘sticky’ forces between particles. In the absence of these, dark matter particles will just orbit the galaxy on vast, speedy trajectories, almost independently of each other.

    So there’s no difference in how gravity works for dark matter as compared to baryonic matter. The difference is that it will almost never ‘hit’ anything (i.e. very unlikely in the age of the universe), or get slowed down by anything, or stick to anything. Each particle just keeps on going, in the same way that a star keeps on going under gravity, orbiting the centre of the galaxy, and not colliding or clumping with other stars.

    @Michael, the article is about the observable universe. Nobody is going to make any serious claims about the number of stars outside of the observable universe. Perhaps the author should have said “observable” just to make it clear.

    Regarding all your other comments, I’d suggest you learn a little about cosmology, rather than misnderstanding it and declaring it to be nonsense. Susskind’s cosmology lectures on youtube – they’re very easy to find – are a good place to start if you can make the time to watch them. (You might need a little familiarity with calculus to follow all the details.)

  • http://Kikville.com Rob

    We cannot control these massive objects out there, but a greater understanding is certainly welcome. There really is no use to argue about all of our theories concerning space. We can rationally determine just how special our own existence and piece of it all really is and learn to be less selfish and loving to each beatiful and unique life form in our inherited world. Believe, breath, love, pray, hope, and above all give more than you take. Bless you, the reader.

  • http://rlcarlson.wordpress.com/ Bob Carlson

    right on, ghoppe! i also don’t hold with dark matter/energy or even stringy theory…i like the holographic universe principle.

  • http://yahoo.com Roj

    The dark matter is in your head!

  • stu

    Sorry to sound dumb. But is it possible that anything that we are seeing beyond our own recent lifetime in light years is already deceased. Meaning that whatever we are seeing now or have been observing in our relitively short period of studying astronomy may not actually be there now?

  • Dave W

    I’m curious. So many people believe there is life on other planets, due to merely the huge numbers of stars in the universe. More than 100 sextillion snow flakes fall in one Siberian winter alone, multiplied by the rest of Earth’s snow fall, multiplied by a few centuries of snow fall, and you get a number of snowflakes so large that 100-300 sextillion becomes simply a fart in a hurricane. Since no snowflakes are exactly alike, what makes anyone think any 2 planets are alike? Besides, there is no proof that intelligent life even exists on Earth.

  • Eric

    Dave, do you really know that there are more than 100 sextillion snow flakes in one Siberian winter, that number is so large its hard to assume such a thing. What if it´s wrong, when comparing such numbers you probably wrong by perhaps a billion to one ore more regarding witch one is the largest number. The number of stars is not the same as places that can sustain life, there are perhaps 10 planets for every star and every planet may have a lot of moons, Jupiter and Saturn have more than 60 each and then suddenly your centuries don´t matter any more, then there are all those dwarf planets that we keep finding al the time, outside of the solar system and in astroid belts, these numbers may make 100 sextillions next to nothing, and this planet would have to have some miles of snow all of a sudden to keep up. Sone we will have new telescopes and perhaps our universe is 100 times larger in 10 years , since mankind started looking it has only gotten bigger and bigger for every time a new advancement in this area has been made.

    This planet have had o lot of different climates trough out history and they have al been full of life, different planets probably consists of the same materials and life adapts and forms on earth and this probably has nothing to do with our planet alone, look at this planet, there are no square meter on earth that doesn´t have life on if and it thrives everywhere. Water consists of the most common element and has to be everywhere, the same goes fore carbon and the other things we are made of.

    The normal thing to assume is the opposite to yours, this planet is most ordinary and humans are not that important.

    Your comment suggest you are a religious person (do not want life in universe and want it dead and boring for your own ego), or very narrow minded.

  • Stephen Ellison

    I have never seen such a collection of ignorant knowitalls. What do you all do with your time? The guy above who had the least to say, has far more wisdom than the rest of you combined. You’ll all be dead soon, and fools will tear up your folly without even reading the title. More fools will supersede you and they in turn will be shown by their successors to be of no value. Get to the business end and work out something useful like “……..the chicken or the egg”, because most of you haven’t got the basic common sense to ponder the obvious. No hopers! O and you Brendon 24 … Yes! and Yes!

  • Bobbo

    Universe is probably infinite.

    If one zero is added to the estimated number of stars every 3,5,10 years than effectively the Universe is infinite, cause time don’t stop.

  • Allan

    I guess we [the men of science] will get it right eventually. Much safer to stick with theological explanations where we [the hallelulia brigade] have known the truth all the way along. Apart from the bits we got wrong. It would be nice to get a proper explanation of all of this. I should live that long.

  • John McCue

    Some concepts are very difficult to wrap one’s head around, infinity being one. It is easy to say but hard to envisage. But the classic Einsteinian description of the Universe as finite but unbounded doesn’t make much sense to me either.

    There are some snarkey comments here, leading me to suspect those posters are immature.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.hicks.1000 Mike Hicks

    This means there are half as many stars in the universe as molecules in a handful of salt. I wonder if there are any aliens in my hand.

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