Science2 - 00019

Science2 - 00019 - Untitled The Scale of the Universe How...

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Untitled The Scale of the Universe How many stars are there? A glance at a photograph of star-clouds will tell at once that it is quite impossible to count them. The fine photograph reproduced in Figure 2 represents a very small patch of that pale-white belt, the Milky Way, which spans the sky at night. It is true that this is a particularly rich area of the Milky Way, but the entire belt of light has been resolved in this way into masses or clouds of stars. Astronomers have counted the stars in typical districts here and there, and from these partial counts we get some idea of the total number of stars. There are estimated to be between two and three thousand million stars. Yet these stars are separated by inconceivable distances from each other, and it is one of the greatest triumphs of modern astronomy to have mastered, so far, the scale of the universe. For several centuries astronomers have known the relative distances from each other of the sun and the planets. If they could discover the actual distance of any one
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This note was uploaded on 10/05/2009 for the course MATH 205 taught by Professor Popescu,c during the Fall '08 term at UCSD.

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