[Originally published as Beyond the Stars & God’s Glory]
How Big are the Stars?
Let us not forget how big these starry objects are, moving at speeds exemplified by our sun, a medium-sized star, approaching a half-million miles per hour. It is an average distance of 93 million miles away.
The star Betelgeuse, a giant red star, is 700 times bigger than the sun and 14,000 times brighter. This giant star dwarfs the sun to a mere dot in comparison. The earth disappears and becomes a pixel, and humans become microscopic next to these giant objects created by our Creator and Savior.
Such magnitude causes us to meditate upon the question: Who are we to defy the Creator? Who are we to question his plan? When the prophet, Job, was brought to his knees, he said,
I know that You can do everything And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 42:2-3
How Vast is the Universe?
As we meditate on the number of stars, what about the space they occupy? Our neighbor, the closest star to the sun, is Alpha Centauri, which is 4.3 light-years away (about 25.2 trillion miles).
As humans, we are limited to thinking in thousands of miles, not trillions.
- For us to take a trip around the earth, it would total about 25,000 miles.
- The International Space Station is orbiting at an average of only 250 miles above the earth, and
- Mount Everest, one of the highest mountains on earth, measures only 2.5 miles high.
- Our sun, which the earth revolves around every year, is an average of 93 million miles away.
- The fastest jet clocked speeds at over 2,000 miles per hour, and for it to travel to the sun, it would take 5.3 years.
As we move from our solar system to our Milky Way Galaxy, it is estimated that the widest part of the galaxy measures 100,000 light-years or 580,000 trillion miles across. Of course, we have to use estimates to determine the observable diameter of the universe. If the stars were equally spaced apart, this number would be 116 million septillions, but the stars along the Milky Way Galaxy seem to bunch up, moving closer together, so it becomes harder to estimate.
Another challenging factor is that stars can warp space and time when they cluster together as in a galaxy.
According to Einstein’s laws of general relativity, massive bodies like stars can distort space by creating holes in space. Time is also affected because as you approach the center, time slows down, and when you move away, time speeds up. Distorting both space and time is difficult to imagine, but the math works with what we observe.
For example, our GPS systems have to be adjusted for Einstein’s relativity because there is a correction factor as great as two minutes in navigation. So we electronically correct satellite clocks to prevent this error. Of course, this complicates matters when attempting to measure the radius of the universe. The figure used in popular literature is 93 billion light-years (one light-year = 5.9 trillion miles), which is a conservative estimate.
The cosmos is a dynamic place with objects moving at astonishing speeds. Our sun is moving at a speed of 450,000 miles per hour, and the Milky Way galaxy is speeding through space at 2.1 million miles per hour in a galactic cluster.
The cosmos is also expanding and spreading out at incredible rates, much faster than the objects moving within. The Bible addresses this phenomenon, stating that the heavens are spreading out, as shown in the following example:
The burden of the word of the Lord against Israel. Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth and forms the spirit of man within him: Zechariah 12:1
“He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, And has stretched out the heavens at His discretion.” Jeremiah 10:12
When we consider the size of the universe, there is another factor that has to be determined if approaching it from an evolutionist worldview, which centers on the idea that everything came from the Big Bang.
Big Bang theory is described as a point in which everything began from a very dense and very high-energy super force. It is described as a singularity that happened when there were no fundamental particles like atoms, planets, stars, etc. The universe is expanding at a high rate of speed, and this provokes the question: where does the energy to produce this expansion originate? It is missing and defined as dark energy, calculated at 68% of the universe.
Galaxies are extremely large, numbering thousands to billions of stars. The gravitational forces needed to attract all these stars and large masses together in galaxies are absent. This missing matter is dark matter, which is estimated at 27%. There are many theories proposed about antimatter and invisible particles, but as NASA scientists and other scientists attempt to solve this problem, it remains a mystery.
Evolutionists have concluded that about 95% of the universe is missing in the forms identified as dark matter and dark energy. We can only see less than 5% of the universe in the forms of stars, planets, asteroids, comets, and all other visible matter.
For those who believe in a supernatural Creator, we know that He shares His glory with us by revealing Himself for us to discover. He is the first cause–not the Big Bang–for our existence and hope. We also believe He made clear with His Word in Genesis 1 how the universe came to be as He spoke everything into existence. It states in Genesis 1:14,
Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also.
With all the factors mentioned above, it becomes a real challenge to determine the size of the universe. There is one conclusion that both Creationists and Evolutionists would agree upon: the dynamic universe with all its heavenly bodies is too large to measure because it is expanding continuously. The testimony of the vastness of the universe filled with twinkling lights of various stars with colors all across the spectrum gives us an awareness that our Creator is unique, huge, and in command.
The Psalmist proclaimed,
Bless the Lord, O my soul! O Lord my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, who cover yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain. Psalm 104:1-2
As we are reminded in Isaiah 40:26, there is so much to discuss about the universe and the stars if God took the care to number, name, and account that no star is missing. God, in so many ways, has revealed Himself so that we can see His awesomeness in design. He also gave the genius of Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and so many others, which gives us a contagious inspiration to probe the universe, making discoveries that challenge man to think higher. God desires to make us look up and see through all He created and realize how much He loves us.