09/30/2013 02:20 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2013

Earth: Little More Than a Speck of Dust

We humans live on a relatively small planet named Earth that is part of a solar system consisting of a medium-sized star that we call the Sun. Besides Earth, there are seven planets in our solar system. Our solar system is part of a galaxy that we call the Milky Way. Our galaxy consists of more than two hundred billion stars and their planets. There are more than a hundred billion galaxies in our expanding, 156 billion-light years wide universe, which would suggest that there are trillions of stars, planets, and moons.

Obviously, these numbers are only extremely rough estimates. We will never know exactly how many galaxies, stars, planets, and other celestial bodies there are in the universe. But the fact that we are talking about hundreds of billions should be sufficient to amaze us and overwhelm the capacity of our minds to even begin to comprehend the vastness of creation. Consider the possibility that there may be more than one universe. Entertain the notion that there might be many parallel universes.

Now, try to imagine the Earth from the perspective of outer space. Visualize it quietly orbiting the Sun. Visualize the Sun and our solar system tucked away among billions of other stars and their solar systems within our galaxy. Stretch your imagination further and try to visualize our galaxy among a seemingly endless mass of billions of other galaxies.

If you think of the Earth within the context of the universe(s), it is difficult to cling to any certainty you may have about the significance or uniqueness of our planet, and thus the degree of specialness we like to attribute to its inhabitants. It is not only that the Earth gets lost in the numbers, it is that our beautiful planet in reality is no more than a spec of dust in the universe.