Analogy The Size of the Galaxy and the Universe

All Ages

Materials: one round sandbox, 20' in diameter—or a good imagination

How big is the Milky Way galaxy? First, remember that one million Earths would fit in the sun. Now imagine an enormous round sandbox, 20 feet across and a foot thick. If our sun were a single grain of sand in that sandbox, the sandbox would be the Milky Way galaxy, which is filled with as many stars as there are grains of sand in the sandbox.

Now shrink that entire galaxy down to a single grain of sand. The grains of sand in the sandbox now represent the number of galaxies in the universe. Sit in the sandbox and run your fingers through the galaxies. Repeat. See also: The Hubble Deep Field photo, which many have called "the most important photo ever taken" for its paradigm-rattling power: http://hubblesite .org/newscenter/archive/releases/2004/07/ (accessed May 8,2008).

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