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How big is space?

How big is space?
Callum from Cumbria (Age: 5-14)


One Response

  1. HI Young Scientist :).
    The ‘observable universe’ – the part of space that we can detect signals from – has been determined to have a width of 156 thousand million light years + or – 1%. To picture this in our minds is almost impossible. To travel this distance, using today’s technology, for us is completely impossible. So to do that or even a fraction of that journey realistically will take a whole new branch of science and perhaps you and your friends could contribute to that!
    Outer Space is the most massive volume that exists. So massive that we have not yet invented a way to measure how much ‘space’ there is out there. We have made some very careful measurements of the distance from Earth to many of the stars and from the distance we think existed at that time to the furthest of these (and this is increasing all the time) we can conclude that Outer Space is even bigger!
    More than 500 years ago our first mathematicians began to use numbers to describe the star patterns and, gradually, improvements have led to better models of the “Observable Universe” until, and more recently, the idea of using the speed of light as a ‘yardstick’ was thought of.
    Light and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, from radio waves to X-rays, travel at an astonishing speed (about 300,000 km per second) so if we think of the distance light would travel in a year then we may measure the distance to a star in terms of how many years light has had to travel to journey to Earth from that star. In one year light would travel 9,460,500,000,000,000 metres (in a vacuum).
    Light travels a little more slowly through gasses and still more slowly through transparent liquids, glasses and plastics but for space travel, the figure quoted applies to one ‘light year’.
    Nothing else- that we know of, is able to travel more quickly than light.
    The longest distance that light has travelled to reach Earth is about 14 thousand million light years! We think that there is no ‘end’ to space as we would recognise it but it seems likely to be very much deeper than that furthest star because every star, and any ‘solar systems’ is rushing away at immense speed also.
    There is no certain answer to your question. YET!! But science is all about finding out more explanations and the more young scientists we have, the better our chances of solving more problems.
    Good Luck.

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