Data & Facts About The Universe

This is a discussion of the data and facts used in both the interactive infographic Magnifying the Universe and the static, vertically scrollabe poster Sizes of the Universe

These infographics examine the entire universe at all physically meaningful scales of length. They were inspired by the following six resources:

(1) (This video - "Powers of Ten" - was released in 1968 by IBM. It is described here - It was turned into the following book: Philip Morrison, Phylis Morrison, and Office of Charles and Ray Eames, Powers of Ten: A Book About the Relative Size of Things in the Universe and the Effect of Adding Another Zero [W. H. Freeman, 1985].)

(2) (Video infographic on sizes of celestial objects. )

(3) (Video infographic on sizes of celestial objects. This one is more informative than the preceding one)

(4) (a terrific interactive infographic on cell size and scale.)

(5) (Shows relative sizes of planets and various suns.)

(6) (this inspired the interactive angle)

Scales Used in Infographics

Here are some size scales that were used in the construction of this infographic:

1 m = 3.2808 ft = 39.370 in
1 angstrom = 0.1 nm = 10E-8 cm
ly = light year(s)
pc = parsec(s)
au = astronomical unit(s)

1 ly = 9.461x10E12 km = 9.461x10E15 m = 63.24x10E3 au = 0.3066 pc = 9,460,730,472,580.8 km = 63,241.1 astronomical units = 0.306601 parsecs = 31,557,600 light-seconds

1 solar radius = 695,500 km = 432,450 miles
1 au (astronomical unit) = 149,597,870.7 km = 92,955,807.3 mi
1 pc (parsec) = 30.857x10E12 km = 30.857x10E15 m = 206.26x10E3 au = 3.26156 ly

1 mile = 1.60934 km

The basic unit of measurement that was used in the infographic is the meter. At the high end we used meter measurements at the scale of 10E26 (this is engineering notation, with 10E26 = 10^26 (i.e., ten raised to the 26th power) = 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. When we go to the molecular and atomic scale we see lengths as small as 10E-15 = 10^(-15) (i.e., ten raised to the minus 15th power) = 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 = .000000000000001.

What follows are the objects/structures/processes that are presented in the infographic along with a brief description for each, their length/diameter, and a link (or several links) to visual representations. The trick will be to weave these together in a way that naturally relates the various sizes and gives viewers a feeling of awe over the vast differences in scales that operate in the universe.

General References:

Note: Distances for objects in universe given in light years are usually rough, so no need to use too many decimal places.


Object: The Observable Universe
Description: All things potentially in causal contact with us
Size: 8.80x10E26 m in diameter (= 93 billion ly = 28 billion pc)

Object: The Observed Universe
Description: The most distant object thusfar observed is a gamma ray burst, GRB 090429B
Size: 2.48x10E26 m in diameter (GRB 090429B is 13.1 billion ly from Earth, suggesting a radius for the observed universe of that distance and thus a diameter twice that distance; note that the universe is 13.7 billion years old, indicating that this gamma ray burst happened 600 million years after the Big Bang)



Object: The Local Universe
Description: The universe as mapped by the Two Micron All-Sky Survey (2MASS)
Size: 2.46x10E25 m in diameter (a radius of 1.3 billion ly from us).



Object: The Horologium Supercluster
Description: A large supercluster of galaxies (superclusters constitute the largest grouping of things short of the large scale structure of the universe)
Size: 5.20x10E24 m in diameter (= 550 million ly across)

Object: Virgo Supercluster
Description: The supercluster of galaxies in which we find ourselves (the Milky Way is part of this cluster)
Size: 1.04x10E24 m in diameter (110 million ly or 33 megaparsecs)


Object: The Local Group
Description: The grouping of nearest galaxies that include the Milky Way
Size: .95x10E23 m or roughly 1x10E23 m in diameter (10 million ly in diameter)


Object: IC 1101
Description: Largest known galaxy
Size: 5.30x10E22 m in diameter (5.6 million ly diameter)


Object: cD Galaxy NGC 4889
Description: Supergiant elliptical galaxy in Coma Supercluster
Size: 4.73x10E21 m in diameter (500,000 ly diameter)

Object: Andromeda Galaxy
Description: Nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way - it is in our local group.
Size: 2.08x10E21 m in diameter (220,000 ly across)

Object: Milky Way Galaxy
Description: Spiral galaxy in which we find ourselves
Size: 1.14x10E21 m in diameter (120,000 ly across)


Object: Triangulum Galaxy
Description: Smaller spiral galaxy in the Local Group
Size: 4.73x10E20 m in diameter (50,000 ly across)


Objects: Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC)
Description: Two dwarf galaxies in the Local Group orbiting the Milky Way
Sizes: 13.2x10E19 m in diameter (14,000 ly across for the LMC), 6.62x10E19 m in diameter (7,000 ly across for the SMC)


Object: Tarantula Nebula
Description: The most active starburst region in Local Group, located in the Large Magellanic Cloud
Size: 6.15x10E18 m in diameter (650 ly across)

Object: Omega Centauri
Description: Brightest and largest globular cluster orbiting the Milky Way
Size: 1.66x10E18 m in diameter (175 ly across)

Object: Rosette Nebula
Description: Nebula within Milky Way
Size: 1.23x10E18 m in diameter (130 ly across)


Object: Orion Nebula
Description: A nebula in the Milky Way - closest source for major star formation
Size: 1.89x10E17 m in diameter (20 ly across )

Object: Crab Nebula
Description: Supernova remnant in Perseus Arm of Milky Way
Size: 1.04x10E17 m in diameter (11 ly across)


Object: Pillars of Creation
Description: Interstellar formation known as elephant trunks in the Eagle Nebula, part of Milky Way
Size: largest pillar is 3.78x10E16 m in length (4 ly)



Object: Cat's Eye Nebula
Description: Planetary nebula in constellation Draco, part of Milky Way
Size: 3.78x10E15 m in diameter (.4 ly across)

Object: Stingray Nebula
Description: One of the smaller nebulae in the Milky Way
Size: 1.51x10E15 m in diameter (.16 ly across)


Object: Homunculus Nebula
Description: Nebula in the star system Eta Carinae
Size: 2x10E14 m in diameter (.02 ly across)


Object: Solar System
Description: The main planetary and subplanetary objects within the radius of the known dwarf planets (the farthest being Eris, which strays no more than 100 au from the sun - an au being the distance from Sun to Earth). We'll therefore treat the radius of the solar system as 100 au and its diameter as 200 au. There's a bit of arbitrariness here since the Sun's gravitational field extends indefinitely and there are other objects much further away within its pull, such as the Oort Cloud (estimated at 50,000 au).
Size: 3x10E13 m in diameter (200 au = .003 ly across)

===10E12 to 10E8===

Object: VY Canis Majoris
Description: The largest known star. This star, if centered at the sun would reach out ten times farther than the earth and include the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.
Size: 3.0x10E12 m in diameter (= .0003 ly or about 20 au)

VY Canis Majoris, 3.0x10E12 m in diameter
VV Cephei (aka HD 208816), 2.6x10E12 m in diameter (red hypergiant)
Mu Cephei (aka Hershel's Garnet Star), 2.3x10E12 m in diameter (red supergiant)
Betelgeuse, 1.6x10E12 m in diameter
Antares, 1.2x10E12 m in diameter
Pistol Star, 4.7x10E11 m in diameter (blue hypergiant)
La Superba, 3.0x10E11 m in diameter
Rigel, 1.1x10E11 m in diameter
Aldebaran, 6.1x10E10 m in diameter
Arcturus, 3.6x10E10 m in diameter
Pollux, 1.1x10E10 m in diameter
Regulus, 5.8x10E9 m in diameter
Sirius, 2.51x10E9 m in diameter
Sun, 1.392x10E9 m in diameter
Luyten's Star, 3.25x10E8 m in diameter
Wolf 359, 1.87x10E8 m in diameter

===10E8 to 10E6===

TrES-4 (largest known planet), 228,000,000 m by 2.28x10E8 m in diameter
Jupiter, 142,984,000 m by 1.43x10E8 m in diameter
Saturn, 120,536,000 m by 1.21x10E8 m in diameter
Uranus, 51,118,000 m by 5.11x10E7 m in diameter
Neptune, 49,532,000 m by 4.95x10E7 m in diameter
Earth, 12,756,000 m by 1.28x10E7 m in diameter
Venus, 12,104,000 m by 1.21x10E7 m in diameter
Mars, 6,794,000 m by 6.79x10E6 m in diameter
Mercury, 4,880,000 m by 4.88x10E6 m in diameter
Pluto, 2,315,000 m by 2.32x10E6 m in diameter

Ganymede (Jupiter's moon): 5,268,200 m by 5.27x10E6 m in diameter
Callisto (Jupiter's moon): 4,820,600 m by 4.82x10E6 m in diameter
Io (Jupiter's moon): 3,660,000 m by 3.66x10E6 m in diameter
Earth's moon: 3,474,200 m by 3.47x10E6 m in diameter
Europa (Jupiter's moon): 3,138,000 m by 3.14x10E6 m in diameter

FUN FACT: Great Wall of China: 8,851,000 m by 8.85x10E6 m in length (6,259,600 m by 6.26x10E6 m actual wall, the rest trenches and natural barriers)

===10E6 to 10E3===

Australia, from the most eastern point of Australia, Cape Byron in New South Wales, to the most western point, Steep Point in Western Australia, the distance is 2,485 miles = 3,999,210 m by 4.00x10E6 m.
Greenland, 1600 miles (north to south) = 2,574,944 m by 2.57x10E6 m
Madagrascar, 980 miles (north to south) = 1,577,153 m by 1.58x10E6 m

Texas, 773 by 790 miles (width by length) = 1,244,000 by 1,270,000 m by 1.24x10E6 by 1.27x10E6 m
Illinois, 210 by 395 miles (width by length) = 340,000 by 629,000 m by 3.40x10E5 by 6.29x10E5 m
Israel, 71 by 263 miles (at its widest by at its longest) = 114,000 by 424,000 m by 1.14x10E5 by 4.24x10E5 m (see
Rhode Island, 37 by 48 miles (width by length) = 60,000 by 77,000 m by 6.00x10E4 by 7.70x10E4 m

Los Angeles, 29 by 44 miles (width/latitude by length/longitude) = 47,000 by 71,000 m by 4.7x10E4 by 7.1x10E4 m (see
Washington DC, fits snugly in a 10 mile square, so that each side has length 16,000 m = 1.6x10E4 m
Monaco, less than 3,000 m in length = 3x10E3 m

Mount Everest, 8,848 m by 8.8x10E3 m (world's tallest mountain)
Mount McKinley, 6,196 m by 6.2x10E3 m
Mount Rainier, 4,392 m by 4.4x10E3 m OR Matterhorn, 4,478 m by 4.5x10E3 m
Mount Fuji, 3,776 m by 3.7x10E3 m
Mount Rushmore, 1,745m by 1.7x10E3 m (this is the actual mountain on which the president's faces reside)

===10E2 to 10E1===

Burj Khalifa (previously Burj Dubai), with antenna spire 2,723 feet = 829.84 m by 8.29x10E2 m (tallest building in the world)
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), with antenna spire 1,729 feet = 527 m by 5.27x10E2 m
Empire State Building, with antenna spire 1,454 feet = 443.2 m by 4.43x10E2 m
Eiffel Tower, 1,063 feet = 324 metres = 3.24x10E2 m
Gateway Arch (St. Louis), 630 feet = 192 m = 1.92x10E2 m
Washington Monument, 555 feet = 169 m = 1.69x10E2 m
Wrigley Building, Chicago, 425 feet by 130 m = 1.3x10E2 m
Statue of Liberty, ground to torch is 305 feet = 93 m = 9.3x10E1 m
Statue of Liberty, the statue itself, 151 feet = 46 m = 4.6x10E1 m

===10E1 to 10E-2===

Blue Whale, in length 98 feet = 30 metres = 3x10E1 m (largest animal ever to have existed)
Apatosaurus (formerly Brontosaurus), in length 75 feet = 23 m = 2.3x10E1 m (largest land animal ever to have lived)
Tyrannosaurus Rex, in length 42 feet = 12.8 m = 1.28x10E1 m
Reticulated Python (world's longest snake), adults can grow 28 feet = 8.7 m by 8.7x10E0 m
Giraffe, in height up to 20 feet = 6.1 m by 6x10E0 m
African Elephant, male in height at shoulder, 13 feet by 4 m = 4x10E0
Kodiak Bear, standing up on back feet, 10 feet by 3 m = 3x10E0
Adam and Eve, show them respectively 6 feet and 5 feet 6 inches, or 1.83 m and 1.68 m (1.83x10E0 and 1.68x10E0 m)
Great Horned Owl, stands 2 feet and 3 inches = 27 inches = 69 centimeters = .69 m = 6.9x10E-1 m
Bull Frog, body length (excluding legs) of 6 inches = 15 cm = .15 m = 1.5x10E-1 m
Monarch Butterfly, wingspan approximately 4 inches = 10 cm = .1 m = 1x10E-1 m
Grasshopper, 2 inches = 5 cm = .05 m = 5x10E-2 m

===10E-2 to 10E-10===

For length scales 10E-2 to 10E-10 m we referenced objects in

Note that the size scales are given with each object and a glossary explaining the size scales is given below. The smallest object in this interactive infographic is the carbon atom, with a diameter of 340 pm = 340 picometers = 340x10E-12 m = 3.4x10E-10 m

The cross-section of a human hair, which can vary between 17 and 180 micrometers: i.e., 17x10E-6 and 180x10E-6 m, i.e., between 1.7x10E-5 and 1.8x10E-4 m.

===10E-7 and 10E-15===

Hydrogen Atom, diameter of 1.1 angstrom = 1.1x10E-10 m
Hydrogen Atom's Proton Nucleus, diameter of 1.7x10E-15 m

Visible Light, wavelength 380 to 740 nanometers = 3.8x10E-7 to 7.4x10E-7 m
Ultra Violet, wavelength 10 to 400 nanometers = 1x10E-8 to 4x10E-7 m
X-ray, wavelength .01 to 10 nanometers = 1x10E-11 to 1x10E-8 m
Gamma ray, wavelength of 1x10E-11 m or less (observed as low as 1x10E-15 - see last reference below)