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VY Canis Majoris
NASA's newly discovered giant star.
Also see There's A Lot of Space Out There!
Canis Majoris is Latin for "Big Dog"! When you understand just how enormous this star is, you will have to agree that it has been aptly named. So how big is Canis?
Let's say the earth were the size of a BB, at this scale the sun would be a couple inches larger than a regulation sized basketball. Now get ready to pull a few G's because at this scale, VY Canis Majoris would be more than a mile in diameter. If you can spot yourself on that little BB on the edge of that one mile in diameter star, maybe you have some idea just how very small you and I are, and just how big our God truly is, "...and meted out heaven with the span... (His hand)"" Isaiah 40:12.
The star, VY Canis Majoris, is about 2000 to 2200 times the size of our local sun. It is the largest known star in the Milky Way galaxy, and if placed within our solar system, it would extend to Saturn's orbit around the sun. If you were to take a hike around the circumference of VY Canis Majoris, and let's assume a comfortable walking speed of 3 mph/8 hours a day, it would take you approximately six hundred and fifty thousand (650,000) years to get back to where you started from. Though still not in your life time, compare that to the three hundred and ten (310) years required to hike around our sun, or the more reasonable and less daunting two (2) years and seven (7) months to complete a hike around our Earth.
Here is another crude comparison; it would take light more than 8 hours to travel around the star's circumference, compared to 14.5 seconds around the sun. It would take over seven quadrillion (7,000,000,000,000,000) Earths to fill the volume of VY Canis Majoris. Getting the picture yet?
Even in the overall scale of things, VY Canis Majoris is nothing but an atom sized speck of light in its local galaxy, which in itself is an insignificant dot in the surrounding universe. No doubt there are much larger stars in distant galxaies that Canis Majories would pail in size to, perhaps some even in our own galaxy that have yet to be discovered.
Not impressed yet, well then try this on for size (literally). If the Milky Way were the size of a penny, how big would the rest of the universe be?
A penny is about 1 inch across. If this equals 100,000 light years as the diameter of the Milky Way, the Andromeda Galaxy is about 23 inches away, the Virgo Cluster of Galaxies would be about 600 inches away, and the nearest quasar, 3C273 would be about 150,000 inches away (a little over 2 miles) from our penny sized Milky Way.
The visible universe has a horizon at about 14 billion light years and the most distant galaxies seen by the Hubble Telescope are nearly at this limit at about 12-13 billion light years. This would be about 15 - 20 miles away from our penny Milky Way and is the farthest we can see (so far).
At our penny scale, our furthest horizon is only about 20 miles from us, the rest of the unobservable universe stretches thousands, maybe even millions of miles beyond the last penny galaxy we can see. If you can comprehend a million miles beyond our penny sized galaxy, (remembering the vast size of Canis Majoris and it only being a speck of light in our penny sized galaxy) then perhaps you can grasp just an inkling of how big, powerful and glorious our God truly is.
"...and meted out heaven with the span..." Isaiah 40:12
And meted out heaven - The word rendered 'meted,' that is, measured, means properly to stand erect, to set up, or make erect; to found, fit, adjust, dispose, form, create. It usually has the idea of fitting or disposing. The word 'span' denotes the space from the end of the thumb to the end of the middle finger, when extended - usually about nine inches. The idea is, that Yahweh was able to compass or grasp the heavens, though so vast, as one can compass or measure a small object with the span. What an illustration of the vastness and illimitable nature of God!
Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible
...and meted out heaven with the span; which he has stretched out as a curtain, Isa_40:22, and the measure of which is but one hand's breadth with him; and is no more to him than stretching out a carpet or canopy; and as easily measured by him as a piece of cloth is by a man with the span of his hand, or any measuring rule or yard:
John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
There's A Lot of Space Out There!
As large as stars, galaxies and even the universe is, you must understand that it is mostly empty space, in fact, the amount of empty space out there is staggering. There is vastly more "nothing" than "something" in our universe. Roughly 74% of the universe is "nothing," or what physicists call dark energy. Then another 22% of the universe is dark matter, particles we cannot see. Wow, that's 96% of "nothing", it's no wonder God said, "Let your light so shine". Only 4% is baryonic matter, what us non-physicists would call "something". And even this "something" is really mostly "nothing". Let's see why.
If you think there is a lot of empty space or "nothing" in the universe, there's even more "nothing" inside an atom. Atoms consist of mostly "nothing", empty space, approximately 99.999999999999% of empty space; yea, I'd have to classify that as "nothing" in my science journal! By the way, electrons were the smallest particles known to man until the "Quarks" were discovered; more on these little guys below.
A hydrogen atom is only about a ten millionth of a millimeter in diameter, but the proton in the middle is a hundred thousand (100,000) times smaller, and the electron whizzing around the outside is a thousand (1,000) times smaller than even that. The rest of the atom is completely empty space.
For us lay-scientists, electrons have a lot of room in the atom to fly around. The odds of any electrons ever colliding with one another inside of an atom are well, impossible. Roughly, if an electron were a mile (1) in diameter, then a proton would be one thousand (1000) miles in diameter, and the atom itself would be a whopping one hundred million (100,000,000) miles in diameter. See why they never worry about rush hour traffic.
Scientist used to think that protons, neutrons, and electrons were fundamental, or self sufficient and not made of anything smaller. While in fact, it appears that only the electrons are fundamental (well, at least until they get a bigger microscope). Scientist now understand that protons and neutrons, particles that make up an atom's nucleus, contain even smaller particles called quarks.
Quarks are the smallest particle known to man today, scientists have identified six known quarks, which join together in groups of three to create either positively charged protons or neutral neutrons, depending on the specific combination.
There are a number of subatomic particles like quarks, mesons, leptons, gluons, etc that are so small they make an electron look huge. A neutrino is a particle with essentially no mass (or just empty space) and can pass through a million miles of solid lead without touching another particle. (The more dense the matter ie. lead, the less room between particles.) OK, so that's all pretty small stuff, right next to "nothing", however all very essential in order to make the bigger stuff we call "something".
I told my wife that I believe the smart boys of science will continue to discover larger stars and galaxies; they will continue to build bigger telescopes only to find the universe is more vast than they thought before. They will devise more complex microscopes only to find quarks are giants compared to the particles that make them up.
Christians already know what men would see at the end of the expanse of the universe (if he could ever build such a super telescope), he would see GOD staring back. "In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) He is the big bang there all talking about. And if man could build a microscope that could see the very smallest particle matter, he would be astonished to see the truth in his microscope, he would see these words, "And God said..." This is the foundation of all things created. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." John 1:1-3
Personally, I don't believe man will ever find the edge of the universe, but if he did, remember what scripture says, "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee..." (I Kings 8:27). Our universe may be one of many that lie within a much larger universe.
I also don't believe that man will ever find the smallest particle either, when my wife asked me why I believe that, I said, because if man ever did, he would find the limitations of God, and since God has no limitations, man will never find the biggest or smallest entities in the universe. These secrets lie with Him alone, He is God.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" Romans 11:33