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Monday, June 22, 2009

Just How Important Do You Think You Are?

At Left: Hubble Space Telescope image of the Large Magellanic Cloud, nearby galaxy of our own Milky Way

As of March 7, 2009 there are approximately 6.76 billion people on Earth. And over 300 planets outside our own Solar System (exoplanets) have been discovered - all within our own galaxy, the Milky Way. And we are just now scratching the surface of possible planets out there. Recently, unbelievable as it sounds, we have even confirmed the discovery of a planet in another galaxy (extragalactic planet) - the Andromeda galaxy, nearby to our own Milky Way!

At Right: Kepler Space Telescope launches.

With billions of stars in the Milky Way, how many of those stars might have planets that harbor life, or even intelligent life? It's hard to say right now, but the Kepler space telescope aims to start our journey on discovering the possible answers. I watched its successful launch on one March night as I dreamed of its mission to discover Earth-like planets. And I dreamed of how much more insignificant its discoveries will make us feel, while at the same time instilling each of us with wonder and awe at the breadth of the Universe.

I am only one of 6.8 billion people on a planet circling one star in billions within one galaxy of billions. All in a universe that is over 13 billion years old and that spans at least 156 billion light years, each light year being about 6 trillion miles - you do the math.

So, I wonder, just how significant can I be in the face of such incomprehensible magnitudes?

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