The Unimaginable Scale of the First James Webb Image

The first image of the James Webb space telescope has arrived and it shows an incredible vastness of space. The universe is bigger than you think.

Video Transcript

The Universe is big.

You might’ve seen the first image shown by the James Webb telescope. This image represents a tiny part of the sky – so small that, if you held up a grain of sand in your outstretched hand, it would occupy roughly the same part of the sky as that image.

But to truly illustrate how huge the universe is, consider how far we’ll go, what kind of cosmic distance you will cover in your entire life. As you might know, speed is relative, so we have to set our cosmic speed relative to something

The Sun? No, we can go bigger. Maybe the center of the Milky Way? No, we can go bigger still. Perhaps the most useful answer is setting our speed relative to the cosmic microwave background radiation.

Let’s do some napkin math – 390 kilometers per second over a human lifespan. The Milky Way, our galaxy, is roughly a hundred thousand light years across. Assuming these galaxies are roughly the same size as our own, it would take you a million human lifetimes to travel across one of these tiny dots, thousands of which are contained in a patch of the sky small enough to fit inside a grain of sand.

That’s the mind-boggling scale of that James Webb picture and our universe in general.


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