ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)
Hard Science

This Interactive Scale of the Universe Show Just How Small You Are

See how the smallest particles compare to the largest things in the cosmos.

Jolene CreightonSeptember 22nd 2014
News
ESO/WFI (Optical); MPIfR/ESO/APEX/A.Weiss et al. (Submillimetre); NASA/CXC/CfA/R.Kraft et al. (X-ray)

Trying to imagine the smallest things in our universe is rather difficult. Quarks, cosmic strings, neutrinos. The sale of the truly tiny is simply beyond our realm of comprehension. Similarly, it’s hard to conceive of the largest things in the cosmos — supermassive black holes that swallow entire systems, large quasar groups that span galaxies, and on and on.

So, it’s not too surprising that simultaneously imagining the smallest of the small and the largest of the large is a mind-bendingly difficult task. How does a subatomic particle that pops into existence compare to a black hole that’s 10 billion solar masses?

Fortunately, the people at Number Sleuth have created an interactive graphic that lets you do just that. There, you can compare the world of the very time with that of the very large — sliding all the way from the nucleus of a hydrogen atom to the scale of the observable universe.

The creators explain it best:

This interactive infographic illustrates the scale of over 100 items within the observable universe — ranging from animals and insects, nebulae and stars, to molecules and atoms. Numerous hot points along the zoom slider allow for direct access to planets, animals, atoms and more. As you scroll, a handy dial spins to show you your present magnification level.

While other sites have tried to magnify the universe, no one else has done so with real photographs and 3D renderings. To fully capture the awe of the vastly different sizes of the Pillars of Creation, Andromeda, the Sun, elephants, and HIV, you really need to see images, not just illustrations of these items.

Each time you zoom in a depth, you’re magnifying the universe 10x. Every time you zoom out, the bigger objects are one-tenth of their prior size. If you zoom from the biggest object, The Observable Universe (8.8 x 10E26 … or 880,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000m across), all the way down to the hydrogen atom’s proton nucleus (1.7 x 10E-15 … or 0.0000000000000017m across), you will have zoomed in over 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x! Unbelievable isn’t it? Our universe really is immensely massive and surprisingly small.

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