Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Fun: Which are there more of...grains of sand or stars in the sky? #randomfacts via @DefinitionHouse

Have you ever wondered… Are there more grains of sand on Earth or stars in the sky? The answer might just surprise you, according to NPR. There’s no way to literally count each and every grain of sand or brightly burning ball of gas, but a group of scientists at the University of Hawaii were able to come up with a way to estimate the numbers.

They first predicated the average size of a grain of sand and then calculated the number of grains in a teaspoon. Then they factored in the number of beaches and deserts in the world. Once the numbers were multiplied together it was a shocking amount. There were so many zeroes that a shorthand version was required: 7.5 x 1018 or 7 quintillion, 500 quadrillion grains of sand. So, yeah, that’s A LOT. 

Now, skyward! Calculating the number of stars presented an even bigger challenge. What we can see from Earth and Earth’s orbit is limited to our eyes and telescopes. So if we used only our naked eye to observe the stars that could be seen on a clear night then the grains of sand would easily take the win. Even with hardly no light at all, we’re likely to only see a few thousand stars. So scientists decided to estimate the number of stars that could be seen through the Hubble telescope. Which meant that if we included everything that twinkled in the night sky--ordinary stars, to quasars, to red dwarfs, to whole galaxies, etc--then the number of stars in the observable universe would astound. Okay, so what’s the number? Ready? 70 thousand million, million, million stars.

In case you’re still wondering, because that’s an insane amount of numbers, stars are the victor! But if you put it into perspective it’s pretty astounding that Earth--being one little planet in a limitless universe--contains so many grains of sand compared to the number of stars in the sky.

It just goes to show that the universe is boundless up close or far, far away…


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