Counting the Stars in the Galaxy

About how to start counting the total number of stars in the galaxy and the greater universe.

COUNTING THE STARS

The stars which we see as separate points, whether with the naked eye or with telescopes, are situated in "our" galaxy, which, it appears, has the shape of a disk with a diameter of 100,000 light-years and a thickness varying from 20,000 light-years near the center down to about 1,000 light-years as the edge is approached.

The number of stars in this galaxy is estimated at 10E11, a number which provides 30 stars for each inhabitant of the earth. But we can see only a quite small proportion of these, mainly because visibility is restricted by the presence of great clouds of interstellar dust.

By way of illustration:

We can see with the naked eye a number of stars about equal to the population of a small provincial town, of say 2,000 persons; counting these stars at the rate of one per second would occupy us for half an hour.

With a small telescope, we can see a number of stars about equal to the population of Brussels--1 million.

With our most powerful telescopes, we can see a number of stars about equal to one third of the earth's population, or about 1,000 million. Counting this multitude at the rate of one per second would occupy our time every night for about a hundred years.

But even a galaxy containing these myriads of stars is but a minute fraction of the known universe; it is estimated that the number of galaxies is also 10??11, so there are as many galaxies in the universe as stars in our galaxy.

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