By Phil Plait | June 12, 2009 2:00 pm

How big are you?

Not very darn big.

I love the message at the end.

Tip o’ the very, very tiny hat to Sheryl.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Space

Comments (102)


    I love the message at the end.


    P.S. Check out the HD version via the above link. COOL!

  2. Still no match for the size of my ego!

  3. Eric Kolb

    This video brings back into focus the apparent lack of standardized nomenclature when it comes to celestial bodies. The video moves from Rigel (a blue supergiant), to the much larger Pistol Star (a blue hypergiant), to the even larger Antares A (a red… supergiant).

    So, super < hyper < super.

    The lack of precision in the terminology used in what we call these things is frustrating…

  4. Our star is so puny… :(

    As to the message at the end, not entirely true. As there is no real center, everywhere is the center. Therefore, I am the center of the universe.

  5. Well, strictly-speaking, every observer is at the center of the universe, from a relativistic point of view anyway. You just have to keep in mind that everyone else is too.

  6. Darren Garrison

    I’m a really terrific and great guy.

    Hey, is that really a piece of fairy cake?

  7. Actually, this reminds me of Animaniacs’ “Yakko’s Universe”:

    It’s a great big universe, and we’re all really puny
    We’re just tiny little specks about the size of Mickey Rooney…

  8. heinzp

    I think Bad Astronomy just killed youtube.
    Cool video.


    I note that the comments section on that YouTube channel has attracted the usual diatribe from creationist/Intelligent Design nutters. :roll:

  10. Thomas

    Honestly when I read “I love the message at the end.” I was expecting Monty Python’s “The Galaxy Song”.

    “And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space, ‘cos there’s bugger all down here on earth”

  11. Jeremy

    Darren Garrison, now there’s a frood who really knows where his towel is…

  12. Doc

    “Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
    And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour,
    That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
    A sun that is the source of all our power.

  13. matteus

    Like the music to ‘The Blackhole’. That movie freaked me out as a kid.

  14. DrFlimmer

    Damn. I felt so central…. and now… my whole universe comes crashing down into a SMBH….

    The universe is great – by all means!

  15. Reading YouTube comments is one of those things that makes me wish for death from the skies.*

    *(Death from the Skies by Dr. Philip Plait is now available in stores. Buy your copy today!)

  16. Wayne

    @ matteus,

    Agreed, I was just going to comment on that as well. I love that soundtrack, very “spirally”.

  17. T.E.L.

    That’s nothing. How about a primordial neutrino?:

  18. Maltodextrin

    Makes you feel really huge and significant, doesn’t it?

  19. If I’m not the center of the Universe, why is it everytime I drop something heavy (massive, subject to gravitational forces), it lands on my toe?

    Hmmmm… answer me that, Mr. Bad Astronomer.


  20. BJN

    Per some YouTube comments, the densest object in the universe is a dark age biblical mind. Incredibly dense.

  21. James

    What happened to Uranus?

  22. T.E.L.

    James Said:

    “What happened to Uranus?”

    You don’t want to know. At least not in mixed company.

  23. James: it’s almost the same size as Neptune. No real need to show it. But there are other size comparison movies on youtube that show Uranus.

  24. Mount

    I’d like to see that big star compared to the size of our solar system!

  25. dhtroy

    Since the Universe is infinite in all directions, you’ll never be able to find the true center of the Universe, because none exists. Therefore, any point could be called the “center”, if you were talking about the visible Universe from that point outward.

    Having said that, I can safely say that I am the center of my visible Universe, and since I previously stated that the Universe is infinite, and I am the center of my visible part, I therefore, must also be the center of my infinite Universe.

    So there.


  26. Len

    Am I nitpicky if I complain that the Earth (and some others) are rotating backwards?

  27. Jeeves

    And I thought it was a long way to the chemist’s…

  28. Kees

    Pherhaps a nice addition to this would be to show the size of a human compared to Earth. If I’m using wolfram math correctly the ratio is about 7.9 million between a average person and the diameter of Earth, whereas the ratio between earth and the largest star here is just about 50,000
    Wiki gives VY Canis Majoris at a low estimate diameter of 900 solar radii

  29. I feel so insignificant…

    The Sun is so tiny. Do you think if we bought up all the Enzyte in the world, and launched it into the Sun, it would increase the size of the Sun???

    I looked up Uranus to compare it, it was not a pretty sight

  30. Toronto thinks they’re the centre of the Universe, is this directed at them?

  31. Jon B

    @32: Wow. 900 solar radii is about 418 Astronomical Units — and Pluto’s maximum distance from the sun is 49.3 AU. That star is one big honking ball of gas.

  32. Bigfoot

    After watching this, once can only conclude that the true center of the Universe is … Rush Limbaugh.

  33. T. Poe

    Oh wow, gotta love the theme music from Black Hole. Perfect for this sort of thing.

    It’s pretty mind numbing when you think about how tiny our world is in comparison with just about everything else in the universe. It seems so big from the surface… but perhaps an ant thinks the same of a basketball.

    Wait… does that make this video the real life version of the ‘total perspective vortex’?

  34. anon

    But, where’s the small piece of cake that’s generating it all?

  35. I was expecting to see Betelgeuse in there, did I miss it?

  36. 36. Bigfoot Says:

    After watching this, once can only conclude that the true center of the Universe is … Rush Limbaugh.



  37. cameron

    @35: You might want to check your figures.

  38. Michelle

    …Now I know some guys suddenly feel very small. 😛

    I remember a video like that… But that one is much much better. I LOVED it

    PS: I’m not the center of the universe? My keychain says otherwise. PWAH!

  39. Jon B

    @41: Sigh. Pulled the wrong number from the previous posting. Refigured, the star is about 3.97 AU — about three quarters of the way to Jupiter, which is still impressive. (32: is 900 solar radii the radius of VY Canis Majoris, or the diameter?)

  40. James

    I knew when I asked that question what the answers would be :-) I had to ask anyway…

  41. Of course, I am too late to be the first to mention The Total Perspective Vortex

  42. 27. ioresult Says: “James: Uranus is almost the same size as Neptune. No real need to show it.”

    Ditto the Earth and Venus, but they showed both of them.

    – Jack

  43. 30. Len Says: “Am I nitpicky if I complain that the Earth (and some others) are rotating backwards?”

    Not at all. I noticed the same thing. Except for Venus, all of the planets are rotating the wrong way (and at wrong speeds, proportionately).

    – Jack

  44. T.E.L.

    Len Said:

    “Am I nitpicky if I complain that the Earth (and some others) are rotating backwards?”

    They’re only running backwards if time is progressing in the t+ direction. If the movie is being played backward, then the planets (except for Venus) are all running the right direction.

  45. MadScientist

    Yay! I’m a tiny tiny tiny dot!

    @Len: I didn’t even look to see if the ‘planets’ actually looked anything like the real planets – if they don’t then there’s no point in complaining which direction they appear to spin.

    Anyone remember Carl Sagan’s “powers of ten” ? I’m also curious about a sculpture he mentioned – “Perhaps the greatest sculpture ever built, but which no one can see.” Perhaps the sculpture should be rendered in a virtual world then so nerds can strap on their video visors and travel through the sculpture.

  46. Ebo Tebo

    I know I was at the center of the Universe during several Grateful Dead shows I had attended over the years. Does that count??

  47. Levi in NY

    Venus is the only planet that they depict rotating in the correct direction. The others are all rotating backwards.

  48. actuator

    Gee, as to their rotation, all you have to do is look at them upside down. Flip your space craft over. Perspective, perspective, perspective. Are there any scientists out there?

  49. T.E.L.

    actuator Said:

    “… all you have to do is look at them upside down. Flip your space craft over. Perspective, perspective, perspective.”

    Not necessarily. The planets have asymmetrical geological & meteorological structures.

  50. James

    Well, then you need to look at their depictions in the video to see what the observer’s relative orientation to them is, don’t you?

  51. Promii

    The Pistol Star is way more massive than any other star in the video even if it is smaller in diameter, hence the terminology. Those red hypergiants with a diameter the size of Saturn’s orbit are fluffy fluff and not very dense at all.

  52. Knight of L-sama

    Actually I remember a gif I have on my hard-drive somewhere (here’s a link ) that is very similar to that video, also ending at VY Canis Majoris… then on to a large item with VY Canis Majoris showing only a couple of pixels wide.

    Tengen Toppa Gurren Laggan!

    {/severe otaku-ism}

  53. Na

    That’s an awesome video. And it doesn’t make me insignificant at all. The whole reason I like astronomy is that the pictures make me feel a part of something, surrounded by all those beautiful and fascinating objects out there.

  54. Pieter Kok

    Mount (28): VY Canis Majoris has a radius of about 9 AU (2100 solar radii, not 900). Saturn would dip in and out of the surface as it makes a full revolution. The radius of Neptune’s orbit is about 30 AU. So yes, it’s a good proportion of the solar system (at least when you define it in terms of the planetary orbits/Kuiper belt, and not the Oort cloud).

  55. Bah! It’s 2 AM in Squamish, and I was pulling an all nighter to watch the launch of the Shuttle, which I just learned has been scrubbed… :(

    All that Coke to keep me going…wasted!

    What to do…? Hmmm… maybe I’ll troll some Creationist forums… 😉

    NASA halted fueling of the shuttle after detecting the leak on a vent line that leads from the ground umbilical carrier plate to the launch pad and to the “flare stack” where vented hydrogen is burned off, the space agency said.

  56. Kees

    @ 57 and 43. I used diameter and the low estimate for for VY Canis Majoris size. Sorry for the mixup.

  57. Gary Ansorge

    Such a small brain to apprehend such a large cosmos. Amazing it can even try,,,

    That video makes me feel like an ant lost in an O’Neille space colony,,,

    51. Ebo Tebo
    Ah, the Dead, about as central to a universe as one can get,,,
    ,,,been there,,,done that,,,loved it,,,

    GAry 7

  58. Stone Age Scientist

    Now that’s strange… Just the other day, I came across this video by a (cute) guy who looked uncannily like Dr. Plait, and he was explaining something about why the universe doesn’t have a center. Here is the video of Phil’s competitor.

    Oh shoot, it’s Phil!!! Let me rephrase my sentence!!!: …Just the other day, I came across this video by a (cute) guy who looked uncannily like Dr. Plait…”

  59. Keith

    Amazing. Simply Amazing. It’s not just how big these things are, but it really shows how far away they are too, that we see them as just little bright dots. (Except the Moon and Sun of course)

  60. Yes, Blackhole music. Good stuff.

  61. I posted this vid on my facebook a few days ago….

    It makes me feel so…..awesome!

  62. Spectroscope

    Awesome videos (saw someof the others linked there too ..) 8)

    Loved them. 😀

    But one minor nit to pick :

    Arcturus & Aldebarran are in fact ORANGE rather than red giants being of spectral class K NOT spectral class M .

    Pollux = a K0 III star or a relatively small yet hot “early” orange giant star.

    At just thirty-five light years distant Pollux (Beta Geminorum) is also the nearest of all giant stars to us and the brightest (apparent mag) star with an exoplanet – 17th brightest in our sky overall.

    Arcturus (Alpha Bootis)= a K1.5 III star or still fairly hot and small orange giant but cooler and larger than Pollux. It is the fourth brightest star in our sky at a distance of thirty-seven light years and is a low-metal, thick disk star appearing to move quickly (in historical terms -dont expect to see it move night to night – star-setting and rising aside!😉 ) through our sky with a high proper motion.

    Aldebarran (Alpha Tauri) = a K5 III star or the coolest and largest of our trio here – a mid-K type orange giant. It is also the most distant of the three at 65 ly away.

    III, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, just means ‘giant’ in luminosity class :

    I = supergiant,
    II = bright giant,
    IV = sub-giant (star transforming from dwarf to giant)
    V = dwarf,
    VI = sub-dwarf (metal poor older variety of star), and finally
    VII = a white dwarf star.

    Spectral types run from hottest to coolest –

    W Wolf-Rayet stars – rare, massive, ultra-hot dying giants & supergiants shedding their outer layers.

    O the most massive dwarf stars, blue hot.

    B slightly less massive but still between twenty and four solar masses, blue-white hot

    A midway massive white-hot stars like Sirius, Vega and Altair, four to two solar masses.

    F Medium massive stars yellow-white like Procyon & Upsilon Andromedae, verging on Sunlike just a fraction hotter and larger. (Well for main-sequence dwarfs anyway.)

    G type stars like our Sun. Sunlike stars – and like Alpha Centauri A and Tau Ceti.

    K type stars -orange dwarfs still verging on sunlike but a bit cooler and smaller -in fact the coolest dwraf star visible to the unaided eye falls into this orange dwraf category.

    M type stars red dwarfs which are themostcommon stars -yet not a single one is visible to the unaided eye – faint, small, cool and exceptionally long-lived.

    T & L stars – brown dwarfs – more intermediate between superjovian planets and stars.

    Note the figures for types A, F, G, K & M apply only to main-sequnce dwarf stars – stars which, like our Sun, which are buring hydrogen into helium at their cores. 90 % of all stars are dwrafs but they don’t shine as brightly or have as much size so we tend to see the giants and others more in our sky despite their rareness because they can be seen from far further.

    There are also little used spectral classes C, R,N & S for giants and supergiants of particular chemical compositions. These are usually now incl. intype M but you may get the odd reference to them here and there.

    For giants, supergiants & even brighter hypergiants (Luminosity class 0 )

    W- O & B = blue giants, supergiants and hypergiants

    eg. Gamma Velorum, Naos (Zeta Puppis), Rigel, Eta Carinae, Pistol Star

    A = white giants eg. Deneb

    F & G = yellow giants, supergiants & hypergiants

    Eg. Capella, Canopus, Sadalmelik (Alpha Aquarrii), Rho Cassiopiaeae

    K = orange giants, supergiants & hypergiants

    Eg. Arcturus, Aldebaran, Pollux, Enif (Epsilon Pegasi)

    M = Red giants – supergiants & hypergiants

    Eg. Mira, Gamma Crucis, Betelgeux, Antares, VY Canis Majoris, VV Cephei

    Using just those letter (OBAFGKM) and number (Roman I to VII) combinations you can tell a huge amount about what any given star is like. Its a stellar code well worth learning. :-)


    For more info. its well worth checking out James Kaler’s Stars website :

  63. if Uranus is the size of Neptune, maybe it is time to go one a diet.
    (davidlpf will now run and hide now.)

  64. Spectroscope

    @ #68 davidlpf :

    Actually, I thought Ouranos was slightly larger in diameter but slightly less massive, 14 Earth-masses for Ouranos, 17 Earth masses for Neptune. Mind you, I could be wrong.

    Also afraid I haven’t read all the comments beforehand & so might have missed if anyone’s posted the same point(s) I made above.

    Plus I know many of you will already be well aware of the whole stellar classification – spectral & luminosity class – deal but I figured there are also newbies to astronomy here who may benefit from seeing it all set out for them. So thought I’d explain a bit for them. Sorry if I’m belabouring the obvious for old hands ..

    One final point from me – the distances and hence the exact qualities, incl. diameters, for some of these stars notably the Pistol Star are somewhat uncertain ..

    The Pistol Star and Eta Carinae plus another few stars (eg. the Peony Star) are strong contenders for the title of “Brightest star in our Galaxy” but getting their exact details pinned down is still tricky and estimates vary as to precisely how distant – and thus exactly how bright & large they actually are. The same may apply to other stars described there too …

    We also need to take into account that not all these stars are constant and some might vary in shape from the strictly – or even approximately – spherical. Altair, Regulus and Achernar are examples of notably egg-shaped stars due to their rapid rotation. Mira – & perhaps others of its ilk are oddly shaped perhaps because of interaction with their stellar companions or perhaps because of pulsation effects.

    Some stars such as Cepheid variables and perhaps also Mira’s and red giants and supergiants are variable in radius among other qualities.

    But all this is being a bit pedantic and, as noted before, superluminous U-tube thingys there BA – love ’em! :-)

  65. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The lack of precision in the terminology

    That is nothing, relatively speaking. You should see when biologists start to compare sizes of traits in giant mole rats with dwarf elephants.

  66. #69, Spectroscope:

    Oh, so it’s “Ouranus” now, is it?

  67. I guess someone lacks a sense of humour.
    added. Hi Sheldon.

  68. Joe Meils

    Best use of the John Barry score I’ve ever seen… and that includes the movie it came from!

    I wonder if the filmmaker will do the sequel, showing how small the structure of the universe can get, in relation to a human being… just to balance it out….

    BTW, I have a little trouble coming to gips with some of the numbers here… how does the diameter of VY Canis Majoris translate into A.U’s? Or the size of the solar system? I’m thinking that diameter would make it about the size of Jupiter’s orbit… but I may be off by a couple of zeroes…

  69. Stone Age Scientist

    In fact, I was expecting something like a gigantic black hole to appear at the end of the clip. I thought the music from Disney’s feature was the cue. I’ve read before that supermassive black holes lurk at the center of galaxies. How massive are these things? Do they dwarf VY Canis Majoris at all?

  70. T.E.L.

    Stone Age,

    Galactic supermassive black holes range in diameter from a low of about 370,000 miles to roughly 37,000,000,000 miles.

  71. Autumn

    Okay, I’m officially too drunk for math.
    Given T.E.L.’s sizes (which I’m assuming are accurate) for the “size” of supermassive black holes (I assume that the size is the approximate diameter of the event horizon), how large would the body generating (or existing as, astronomical and physical semantics get hazy here) the black hole be if it were able to exist at the average density of our sun?
    I mean, what is the size of a hypothetical, impossible, and veeery interesting (but stupid) ball of hydrogen gas that would collapse to form a supermassive black hole? I know, I know, that’s not how they formed, but as long as we’re comparing sizes . . .

  72. Spectroscope

    @ # 73. Michael L :

    “Oh, so it’s “Ouranus” now, is it?

    Actually its Ouranos but yes. 😉

    The proper Greek spelling of the only planet named after a Greek rather than Roman equivalent god. Yes, I’m sick of all the unfunny jokes.

    @ # 78 Stone Age Scientist :

    How massive are these [supermassive Galactic Black Holes] things? Do they dwarf VY Canis Majoris at all?

    In mass, yes – they have many millions of stellar masses – but this mass is immensely compacted and crushed down until they fit well within the size of our solar system. I’m not sure exactly how they measure up to VY Canis Majoris diameter~wise. This may depend on the individual Galactic Supermasive Black Hole as these vary in size. For example : they tend, I understand, to be smaller for spiral and barred spiral galaxies like ours and larger in the giant elliptical galaxies such as Centaurus A and M87.

    @ 3. Eric Kolb Says:

    This video brings back into focus the apparent lack of standardized nomenclature when it comes to celestial bodies. The video moves from Rigel (a blue supergiant), to the much larger Pistol Star (a blue hypergiant), to the even larger Antares A (a red… supergiant). So, super < hyper < super. The lack of precision in the terminology used in what we call these things is frustrating…

    No, the terminology is very precise – and the blue and red kinds of giant, supergiant and hypergiant are different from the red varieties – as pointed out by # 56 Promii :

    @ # 56. Promii :

    @3 The Pistol Star is way more massive than any other star in the video even if it is smaller in diameter, hence the terminology. Those red hypergiants with a diameter the size of Saturn’s orbit are fluffy fluff and not very dense at all.

    Exactly. The red supergiants (& I suppose hypergiants too) are often described as being “red hot vacuum” at least in their outer layers.

    Blue giants, blue supergiants and, yes, even blue hypergiants such as the Pistol Star are much smaller, much denser – and much hotter hence their colour – than their red equivalents. It makes sense if you understand the physical nature of these stars.

    I gather that the most massive of all stars actually skip the whole ‘red’ stage – failing to become red hypergiants because of the Humphreys-Davidson (spelling?) limit. This is to do with mass loss through major stellar eruptions and winds and the fact that these stars have enormous radiation pressures which literally tear their outer layers away. They become Luminous Blue Variables like Eta Carinae instead before possibly evolving into Wolf-Rayet stars then going supernova or just going supernova directly like SN 1987 A.

    Oh & congrats to those who spotted the backwards rotation of the planets – I totally missed that.

  73. StevoRaine

    I discussed the difference between giants and supergiants in another BA blog thread about the red giant star T Leporis back in February this year.

    See :

    In a nutshell then; compared with the giants the supergiants & even larger hypergiants :

    1) Fuse elements in their cores that go way beyond what the less massive giants can fuse – not just Helium into Carbon & Oxygen but also carbon & oxygen into silicon, sulphur, neon, magnesium, nitrogen, etc .. up until they start to fuse elements into iron ..

    2) …At which point they can go supernova leaving behind neutron star and black holes unlike the giants which can only ever end as white dwarfs. Some less massive supergiants may still end up as white dwarfs – especially if they lose a lot of mass along the way as sometimes happens. Also note the time-scale is much shorter for supergiants evolving and dying than it is for ordinary stars and giants.

    3) Are much more dramatic and extreme than the giants by almost any measure you care to name esp. mass, diameter and brightness. (Except for temperature, that’s the “exception that proves the rule!” )

    4) Originate from rare high mass O and B main-sequence or dwarf stars rather than less massive A, F, & G, stars. (Stars from spectral classes G8 down live so long that they have not had time to evolve into giants.) (Kaler, 2002.)

    5) Are very much rarer and younger than giants but, because they shine more brightly, can be seen from a lot vaster distances away too.


    Now here’s a comparison of fifteen giants and supergiants :

    If they replaced our Sun these giants would extend to where? :

    1. Pollux – an orange giant, extends only an eighth of the way out to Mercury with just 10 times our Suns diameter. (Small giant & the nearest to us plus an exoplanet.)

    2. Naos (Zeta Puppis) – a blue (type O) supergiant has a radius of 11 times solar and thus extends only a fraction more than an eighth of the way to Mercury.

    3. Arcturus – an orange giant extends only a quarter of Mercury’s orbit diameter with 25 solar diameters.

    4. Aldebaran – orange giant would extend halfway to Mercury’s orbit.

    5. Canopus – yellow supergiant or bright giant (class F) with 65 times the Solar diameter would extends 75 % of the way to Mercury. (Second brightest star in our sky despite being 313 light years away – the nearest supergiant to us.)

    6. Rigel – a blue supergiant (B class) also has about 65 times the Solar diameter also extending over two thirds the way to Mercury – but has much more mass 25 times the Suns mass versus Canopus with just 8 or 9 solar mass.

    7. Menkar (Alpha Ceti) a red giant has a radius 77 times solar, about the size of Mercury’s orbit.

    8. Zubenhakrabi (Sigma Librae a.k.a. Gamma Scorpii) – red giant has a radius 110 times that of the Sun (0.52 astronomical units), which would take the star about halfway between the orbits of Mercury and Venus.

    9. Beta Pegasi or Scheat – a red giant with 95 solar radii would be filling 70 % of Venus’ orbit.

    10. Gamma Crucis – a red giant with 113 times our solar diameter extends over halfway to Earth. (At 88 ly away, this is the closest red – M class – giant to us.)

    11. Deneb – a white supergiant would extend out to about Earth’s orbit.

    12. Enif – an orange supergiant has a diameter 150 times our Sun’s and would extend to around Earth’s orbit.

    13. Mira (Omicron Ceti) – Red giant variable :

    “..ranges from about 2 Astronomical Units (500 solar radii) at visual wavelengths to double that in the infrared, or from 20 percent bigger than the orbit of Mars to nearly half the size of the orbit of Jupiter.

    14. Betelgeux – a red supergiant would extend into the middle of the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter with a radius of nearly 4 AU.

    15. VV Cephei – a red hypergiant would extend out to 8 AU or 85% of the orbit of Saturn. (One of the largest of all stars.)

    Sources :
    Kaler, James B., ‘The 100 Greatest Stars’, Copernicus Books, 2002.
    Kaler, James B., “Kaler’s Stars” website :, accessed March & June (& constantly!) 2009.

    & thanks to ‘SLC’ for asking the original question that turned into an article for me! Hope you actually got see my answer for you! 😉

  74. MartyM

    Awesome vid!!

  75. Josh

    I do not remember the exact quote, but Carl Sagan said something like “Astronomy is a humbling and character building science.” This video shows how insignificant we are. We have so much to learn.

  76. T.E.L.


    We are insignificant, at extremes of scale. The atoms and the galaxies are undoutbedly indifferent to our doings. However, it’s simplistic to write us off wholesale as irrelevant. Within a range of scales we can be, and are, key players. A river of soldier ants can march where they will with impugnity. No one argues with them.

  77. Kobayashi

    [Can someone please answer this question for me – it’s been driving me crazy for several years now!]:

    The thing that mystifies me the most is how the universe is supposed to contain everything, and therefore – by definition – cannot have an “outside” – and yet, our brains can never actually conceptualize an entity that has no outside.

    I mean, if the universe is constantly expanding (as the physicists say), what is it expanding into?

  78. Adrian

    Nice video.

    God hang those big stars there to test our faith in his creation!
    I got it, I got it: Our planet is small, our sun is small therefore we aren’t the center of the Universe

  79. Flying sardines

    @ # 87 T.E.L. :

    A river of soldier ants can march where they will with impugnity. No one argues with them.

    No, but an ant-eater has a field day snacking on them! 😉

  80. Morbid Florist

    Great video, the end was a bit disappointing, though. Nothing like ruining a awe-inspiring look at our universe only to be chided with something you’d see on an infomercial at the end.

    Anyway, as others have mentioned, it’s all relative. Perhaps someone is the center of the universe from a strictly mathematical point of view. As observers, we’re all the center of our own universes because the vantage point comes from us.

  81. T.E.L.

    Flying sardines Said:

    “No, but an ant-eater has a field day snacking on them! ;-)”

    Please allow me to introduce my mom’s sister, Aunt Eeter.

  82. @ #88 Kobayashi:

    Basically, the question doesn’t make sense.

    I recommend you go check out the Astronomy Cast episode #28 “What is the universe expanding into?”

    To quote Pamela Gay from the podcast, “So when we start thinking ‘what are we expanding into?’ We’re expanding into something beyond our ability to perceive because everything we perceive is trapped on this surface. “

  83. Yeah, that was a fun episode. We explain early on that it’s a nonsense question, and then spend the rest of the episode explaining why it’s a nonsense question. But then, that’s the Universe for you. It doesn’t give up its secrets that easily.

  84. Les Toth

    I love stuff like this, i am an astro geek from birth. But ide like to point out that on my own reference frame, my family are the centre of my universe and the biggest and most important part of it. My $0.02 on vids like this is the same as i feel about any inward preaching religion. I appreciated it up until the point where it assumed i wasn’t important.

  85. kobayashi

    Thank you RTFM! & Fraser Cain, for pointing me to the podcast. It was fascinating in parts, but nevertheless singularly unenlightening on the very question you tried to pose (repeatedly) on that episode.

    To say that “it is a nonsense question” is, to me, a nonsense response. I’ve heard it from so many people that I’m beginning to doubt my sanity. From what I gather, the professional physicist’s answer is based on the assumption that:


    This is said with such axiomatic certainty that you assume it must be a hard fact… until the physicist cheerfully admits that she doesn’t even know how many universes there are (there goes the definite article in the axiom) and whether or not the universe is finite or infinite (there goes the whole darn axiom, because you can’t have a definition that excludes nothing).

    In other words, the question, “what is the universe expanding into” is being labelled nonsensical based on an axiom that is at best doughnut-shaped, and at worst, nonsensical.

    The extent of physicists’ ignorance of the universe is most startlingly revealed when Pamela Gay says that she isn’t quite sure whether the doughnut shape is just a mathematical model or something that we could take literally! Jeez, isn’t that precisely the kind of question that’s at issue here? The right spatial model for the universe? Schrodinger should have asked, if there was an elephant in the room, what was the probability that a professional physicist could spot it?

    Let’s just admit that there’s a cognitive aporia involved in trying to comprehend the extent of the universe. Let’s please not insult people’s intelligence by calling this a nonsense question.

  86. Stone Age Scientist

    T.E.L. @ # 79 and Spectroscope @ #81,

    Thanks for sharing knowledge.

  87. UM

    Another perspective on scale (or height above the earth’s surface to avoid the whole centre of the universe thing):

  88. CCW

    I know ‘The Black Hole’ meets with a lot of hate here, but the soundtrack is awesome.
    As is the ‘Blade Runner’ theme off course. But John Barry’s opening theme to ‘the Black Hole’ just always creeps me out.

  89. And what about this Size of the Earth =


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