Spiral Galaxy

The Scale of the Universe (Space)

This is an easy-to-understand scale of the Universe.
Distances are explained using the time taken by a light beam to travel.



Light travels at 300,000 kilometres per second (186,000 miles per second).

In one second, a beam of light can travel SEVEN TIMES around the Earth.

This table shows a number of distances to various objects expressed in terms of how long a beam of light takes to travel that distance.

Astronomical Distance
How Long Light Takes
to Travel This Distance
From Earth to the Moon
our natural satellite
1.25 seconds
We have now left the Earth-Moon system where humans have walked
From Earth to the Sun
the centre of our Solar System
8.3 minutes
From the Sun to Jupiter
the largest planet
41 minutes
From the Sun to Saturn
the furthest naked eye planet
85 minutes
From the Sun to Neptune
the furthest of the Sun's major planets
4.2 hours
Voyager I
From the Sun to Voyager I
the furthest probe sent by humans
17.1 hours
We have now left the Solar System, the realm of the Sun, where humans have sent probes
Alpha Centauri
From the Sun to Alpha Centauri
the nearest star to us
4.3 years
From the Sun to Sirius
the brightest star in our sky
8.6 years
61 Cygni
From the Sun to 61 Cygni
the first star to have its distance measured
11.4 years
From the Sun to Pollux
one of the twin stars in Gemini
33.7 years
From the Sun to Castor
one of the twin stars in Gemini
51.6 years
From the Sun to Aldebaran
the brightest star in Taurus
65.2 years
From the Sun to Regulus
the brightest star in Leo
77.6 years
Distance where the Sun would no longer be visible to naked eye
c 110 years
From the Sun to Spica
the brightest star in Virgo
263 years
Acrux (bottom)
From the Sun to Acrux
the brightest star in the Southern Cross
321 years
From the Sun to the Pleiades
the Seven Sisters star cluster in Taurus
c 385 years
Polaris (bright close to centre of trails)
From the Sun to Polaris
the north pole star
432 years
From the Sun to Antares
the brightest star in Scorpius
604 years
From the Sun to Betelgeux
the red star in Orion
640 years
From the Sun to Rigel
the blue star in Orion
777 years
Orion Nebula
From the Sun to the Orion Nebula
the brightest of the nebulae
1,300 years
From the Sun to Deneb
the brightest star in Cygnus, the Swan
2,600 years
Crab Nebula
From the Sun to the Crab Nebula
remnant of an exploded star in Taurus
6,300 years
Double Star Cluster in Perseus
From the Sun to the Double Cluster
a star cluster in Perseus
7,200 years
Omega Centauri
From the Sun to Omega Centauri
the brightest globular star cluster
16,300 years
M13 Globular Star Cluster
From the Sun to M13
the globular star cluster in Hercules
21,000 years
Galactic Centre (I-R Images)
From the Sun to the Galactic centre
the centre of our Galaxy
27,700 years
The Milky Way Galaxy
Galactic diameter
the diameter of our Galaxy
81,500 years
We have now left our Galaxy, our stellar city
Large Magellanic Cloud
From the Sun to the Large Magellanic Cloud
the nearest visible external galaxy
160,000 years
Andromeda Galaxy
To the Andromeda Galaxy
the nearest large galaxy
2,540,000 years
We have now left the region visible with the naked eye
UGC 8091
To UGC 8091
the farthest of the Local Group of galaxies
7,900,000 years
M81 Galaxy
To M81
spiral galaxy in Ursa Major
12,000,000 years
M104 - The Sombrero Galaxy
To M104
the Sombrero Galaxy
30,000,000 years
M87 Elliptical Galaxy in Virgo
To M87
a spherical galaxy in Virgo
55,000,000 years
Extinction of the dinosaurs
65,000,000 years
Perseus Group of Galaxies
To Perseus Group
a group of 500 galaxies in Perseus
190,000,000 years
Coma Group of Galaxies
To Coma Group
a group of 1000 galaxies in Coma Berenices
225,000,000 years
Herculese Group of Galaxies
To Hercules Group
a group of galaxies in Hercules
350,000,000 years
Boötes Group of Galaxies
To Boötes Group
a group of 150 galaxies in Boötes
1,240,000,000 years
3C273 Quasar
To 3C273
the first quasar discovered
2,000,000,000 years
Q0134+329 Quasar
To Q0134+329
typical quasar
4,500,000,000 years
Formation of the Earth and Sun
4,700,000,000 years
Gamma Ray Burster
To Galaxy 970228
typical Gamma Ray Burster
discovered in 1997
6,000,000,000 years
Gamma Ray Burster
To GRB 090429B
furthest Gamma Ray Burster
discovered in 2011
13,000,000,000 years
Remote Quasars
To remotest quasars
discovered in 2011
29,000,000,000 years
Remote Protogalaxy
To remotest protogalaxy
discovered in 2011
32,000,000,000 years
The Edge of the Universe
Edge of Universe
limit of observable Universe
47,000,000,000 years

Time scales longer than the age of the Universe are possible because of the expansion of the Universe.

The scale of the Universe and our place in it are well summarised in Monty Python's Galaxy Song.

© 1997, 2013 KryssTal

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KryssTal Related Page

In astronomy times are confusing because of the large numbers of zeros in the figures. This is an easy-to-understand scaling of the Universe in time. The chronology of the Universe is compared to a real year.

How humanity came from Creation Myths to the Inflationary Big Bang. The key stages in our understanding of our place in the cosmos and the people behind them.

This looks at the history of inventions and the various civilisations of the world.

External Link

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The Official Superstring Web Site
An excellent site containing information about superstrings and cosmology.

Secret Worlds: The Universe Within
A series of images from outside the Galaxy to the quarks within the nucleaus of an atom.

Sizes of Planets and Stars
Scale models of the planets, Sun and stars.