Powers of Ten
Let us explore our Universe from the very small (10-16) to the very large (1023): From the micro world of atoms to the macro world of stars in the outer reaches of our Universe. During this journey, we begin to see similar shapes across macro and micro scales. For example, the shape of very distant, very large "spiral" galaxies resembles "hurricanes" here on Earth.
For the Math Shy
A simpler way to write these numbers is called "scientific notation"
Count the zeros:
Microscopes and Telescopes
To obtain larger and larger images, reftractory telescopes became longer and longer until they reached impractical lengths. Refractors were eventually replaced by reflector telescopes, which use curved mirrors to form images (Wikipedia).
Although the Universe is very, very big, its component parts are very, very small. Telescopes magnify and enhance the brightness of the very distant big stuff of our Universe, while microscopes magnify the smallest components of our Universe.
The first telescopes produced images formed by convex lenses, the kind of lenses that far-sighted people use for eyeglasses. Telescopes that use lenses are called refractory telescopes.
Space-based telescopes overcome the image distortion introduced by Earth's atmosphere. Modern, space-based telescopes are able to explore the Universe in extreme ultra-violet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays. By comparing source images in different wavelengths gives us a glimpse of the very early Universe.
Modern, large-mirror, reflecting telescopes gather many times more light than can our human eyes; in other words, we can, nowadays, observe very faint objects in the sky that are very far away from Earth (NASA: Hubble orbiting, reflector telescope).
Optical microscopes are used to magnify the image of a small object. Low-power microscopes magnify to approximately 40 times and are used, for example, to see the breathing holes (inset) on the underside of a green leaf. High-power microscope magnification is in the vicinity of 200 times, while oil-immersion microscopes can reach 1,000 times or higher. Electron and x-ray microscopes can get down to the molecular level. (Photos at: www.iscopecorp.com)
The Blue Dot was photographed by several spacecraft. The photograph shown on the right was taken in July 2013 by NASA's Cassini spacecraft at a distance from Earth of approximately ~1,500,000,000 kilometers (~900,000,000 miles). This is our place in the Universe.
Side Note: One may ask, what is the difference between an astronomer and an astrophysicist? An astronomer observes, while an astrophysicist explains what astronomers have observed. Throughout the millennia, astronomers observed and studied the heavens, but no one had answers to many standing issues, such as: Is the Earth flat or spherical? Is the Earth the center of the Universe or is our Sun just a medium-sized, quite ordinary, middle-aged star in a vast sea of innumerable other stars? Although we have resolved these issues in the last few hundred years, we still have many more mysteries to explain, as well as discovering numerous new mysteries on which to study, ponder, and speculate. RB