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The surest way to feel small and insignificant is to gaze at a map of the Milky Way Galaxy, and realize that the Planet Earth and everything on it are but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.  The thought suddenly makes all of our hopes, worries, and daily struggles feel unimportant.

But don’t let that bum you out!  Contemplating the sheer size of the Milky Way Galaxy can also fill you with a sense of wonderment and awe.  Astronomers estimate that it contains 100-400 billion stars, which each might have its own planets revolving around it, just like our own sun.  It takes at least 100 million years for light to travel from one end of the galaxy to the other.  And the Milky Way is just one of 100 other galaxies which form the Virgo Supercluster, which is but one of millions of superclusters in the observable universe.  Thinking about all those galaxies filled with all those stars, and planets which could support intelligent life, can cause one’s mind to wander.  What else is out there?  It is no surprise that one result of the many fascinating discoveries of astronomers in the 20th century was the rise of the science fiction genre.

And so, courtesy of National Geographic, take a look at this high-resolution map of the Milky Way Galaxy, which was published in 2002 and reprinted it in 2005.  Try not to feel small.

Happy Mapping!

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