“Behold a Universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Our world is terrifying in its insignifi cance.” So wrote Bernard de Fontenelle (1657–1757), capturing the mood of his generation as the true extent of the Universe became known. The early scientists who had sought to fathom God's ways in creation had discovered a Universe so vast that God's greatest creation, humanity itself (Figure 174), seemed like a mere candle flickering in the dark of a medieval cathedral.
In 1543 Copernicus' De Revolutionibus was published and we perceived ourselves to be living in a heliocentric world, but Copernicus never sought to demote humankind, as we shall see later. As telescopes were pointed to the heavens, astronomers have found our Sun to be but one of 100 000 million stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Today we know that if we were to count all the stars in the Milky Way at a rate of one every second, the process would take over 2500 years!
KeywordsEarly Universe Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe Observable Universe Anthropic Principle American Astronomer
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