Fun fact: if you hold up a pea at roughly arm’s length, it covers the disc of the sun just like the moon does during an eclipse. Obviously you wouldn’t want to try this due to the harmful nature of looking directly at the sun, but the same principle would also blot out the disc of the moon. So try that one night instead.
I recently watched a video in which this fun fact provided the basis for demonstrating the grand scale of the universe. Placing a pea on a football field to represent the sun, the earth would be a barely visible dot on a piece of paper just over two feet away. Not exactly mind blowing. Jupiter is almost 13 feet away from the pea. Pluto, on the other hand, resides 97 long feet away. I don’t think my eyesight would allow me to pick out the pea from that distance. I’m not entirely certain I can even throw a football that far.
In 1977 NASA launched the Voyager 1 space probe to explore the outer solar system. Thirty five years later, It hurtled through space at an estimated 38,000 mph when it finally exited the solar system. To put that distance in the perspective of our pea-sized sun, Voyager 1 is now 317 feet away. It travelled the length of just over one football field in 35 years. But it will need another 40,000 years to journey to a new solar system.
That’s because the nearest sun-like star to us would be a pea-sized flashlight so incredibly bright It’s actually visible from a whopping 130 miles away. One of the fastest man-made objects ever built, the Juno Jupiter probe, would shave 34,000 years off Voyager 1’s needed time to reach it. But still, when kids fight and complain during a 15 minute car ride across town, taking 6,000 years to travel 130 pea-sun sized miles in order to reach the closest star seems inadvisable.
As my mind reeled, attempting to grasp all this perspective, the video moved on and pointed out that every single star we see at night accounts for an insignificant 1% of the Milky Way galaxy. We need the assistance of telescopes if we wish to view the billions of other peas the unaided eye can’t perceive at night, which make up the other 99% of our galaxy.
By employing the most powerful telescopes ever built, humanity can now observe that the Milky Way galaxy is just one of billions upon billions of other galaxies out there. Galaxies beyond number stretching out to an ‘edge’ of space so far away we can’t observe it because there hasn’t been enough time for the light they emit to travel back to earth. Space is insanely big. And at that insanely unimaginable size, it must contain some insanely unimaginable yet impressive things.
As I later laid on the floor reading books to my daughters I reflected on their beautiful spirits and marvelous natures. They wonder, sing, draw, imagine, create, love, beautify, grow, laugh and inspire. I doubt anything else in all creation generates such spontaneous and magnificent beauty as the human spirit.
Russell M. Nelson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aptly expressed how incredible our bodies are too. “The many amazing attributes of your body attest to your own ‘divine nature.’ Each organ of your body is a wondrous gift from God. Each eye has an autofocusing lens. Nerves and muscles control two eyes to make a single three-dimensional image. The eyes are connected to the brain, which records the sights seen.” He goes on to describe more wonders of the body: the heart, skin, cell regeneration, and multiple regulatory systems that keep it all working without our conscious thought.
The Lord instructs us that, together, the “spirit and the body are the soul of man.”¹ He also counsels us to, “remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.”² The worth of our souls, spirit combined with body, is so great that the Savior willingly suffered incomprehensible pain then death so we might come unto Him.
The Lord then teaches us that, “….this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”³ God’s glory is in the redemption and glorification of souls; spirit and body. Nothing in all the universe surpasses His children in value. In all this vast unimaginable universe, nothing is more important, nothing holds more potential, nothing is more wonderful or awe-inspiring than His children.
Generally these scale of the universe things tend to make us feel small and insignificant. But the lens of our true identity strips away that falsehood. The truth is that each of us is the most unimaginably impressive thing in the universe. Let’s appreciate our true worth and reach our full potential in God’s vast cosmos.
¹ Doctrine and Covenants 88:15
² Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-12
³ Moses 1:39