Sunday, January 06, 2013

Spherical Lump of Congealed Cosmic Dust

The Milky Way. Photo Credit: NASA
In an earlier post, I'm Losing (and finding) My Religion - Again, I wrote about the reconciliation of my faith and current scientific understanding of the universe. I have come to believe that the Bible is not a science textbook and that science doesn't answer questions of faith.

We are no longer the center of the solar system or the universe, thank you Nicolaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei. 

Abandoning a geocentric model of the universe and an egocentric view of creation my faith is no longer threatened by science. I am free to fully experience the wonder and shear awe of our universe without the cognitive dissonance that a literal reading of Genesis brings on. 

Last year I bought a new telescope and I am enjoying my rekindled love of the cosmos. While viewing sights such as the Orion Nebula, the Beehive Cluster, and the Pleiades, I can't help but think about our spherical lump of congealed cosmic dust and its place in the cosmos. Could there be other planets out there?

According to John Johnson, assistant professor of planetary astronomy at Caltech, “There’s at least 100 billion planets in the galaxy—just our galaxy, That’s mind-boggling.”

I started wondering how many Earth-like planets are in our galaxy, how many in the universe?

Joe Catanzarite, a scientist with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, estimates that there might be "two billion Earth analog planets" in our galaxy alone. He added, "Then you start thinking about other galaxies. There are something like 50 billion, and if each one has two billion Earthlike planets, it's mind boggling."

I love it when scientists use technical jargon like "mind-boggling".

So, being neither an astrophysicist nor a mathematician, I'll do my best to "do the math"...

If there are 50 Billion galaxies in the known universe (a conservative estimate according to some scientists, the number could be 100 Billion) and multiply it by 2 Billion Earth-like possibilities, we come up with the "mind-boggling" number of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is a 1 followed by 20 zeros (1 x 1020). I could be wrong about the name, but I think that number is called 100 quintillion. 

Perhaps we are not alone in the universe on our little spherical lump of congealed cosmic dust after all.

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)

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