Scale: 1017 meters = 10 Pm = 100 petameters (~10 light years)

The Nearest Stars

This image is 10 light years across. We have finally traveled far enough to see our neighboring stars. Within this local volume of 1000 cubic light years there are only eleven known stars, including our Sun. Most of these stars are either red dwarfs or are binary star systems. There is no other lone star like our Sun within this enormous volume of space. Our nearest neighbor is Proxima Centauri with its nearby companion double star Alpha Centauri. These stars lie just over four light years away from the Sun and are seen as the three dots directly above the Sun in this image.

This is the last of the jumps in which the background stars are not shown. One of the points I have wanted to emphasize in this sequence is the incredible vastness and emptiness of space. From our vantage point 20 light years from home, I hope you can appreciate how truly alone we are. At this time we have no way of knowing how common life is among the stars. For the 99.999 999% of us who will never leave the surface of our planet, Earth is the only home we will ever know. Earth is unique -- and will continue to be unique even if we find that life is a common result of the formation of stars and planets.

Copyright © 2016 by Bruce Bryson