According to the best estimates of astronomers from around the world, there are at least one hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe.
That doesn't even include the parts of our universe (there could be multiple universes) that we can’t see. Within those galaxies, scientists estimate that there are as many as one hundred billion galaxies. For all we know, these numbers could be in the trillions.
New research coming from a team of international scientists, led by Professor Heidi Jo Newberg from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, suggests that the Milky Way galaxy is at least 50 percent larger than what is commonly believed. These estimates are based on new findings that reveal our galaxy is contoured into multiple concentric ripples.
“In essence, what we found is that the disk of the Milky Way isn’t just a disk of stars in a flat plane — it’s corrugated. As it radiates outward from the sun, we see at least four ripples in the disk of the Milky Way. While we can only look at part of the galaxy with this data, we assume that this pattern is going to be found throughout the disk.” (source)
The research is showing that what were previously thought to be rings are actually part of the galactic disk itself. As a result, scientists are now estimating that the Milky Way galaxy is not at least 100,000 light years across, but 150, 000, which is a pretty massive difference.
The research, funded in part by the National Science Foundation and titled “Rings and Radial Waves in the Disk of the Milky Way,” was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal. (source)
Another quote to reiterate the findings:
“Going into the research, astronomers had observed that the number of Milky Way stars diminishes rapidly about 50,000 light years from the center of the galaxy, and then a ring of stars appears at about 60,000 light years from the center, What we see now is that this apparent ring is actually a ripple in the disk. And it may well be that there are more ripples further out which we have not yet seen.” (source)
It’s pretty mind altering if you think about it, isn’t it? Light travels at 186,000 miles per second, so one light year is nearly 6 trillion miles. These new findings also raise further questions with regards to life beyond Earth. The general consensus within the scientific community these days it that yes – life beyond our world exists without question and it’s just a matter of time before we discover it.
Our reality seems to be larger than the human mind can comprehend, and all possibilities ranging from multiple universes, dimensions, parallel realities, time travel, shortcuts through space (wormholes), and much more are plausible.