There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on the earth and the number of water molecules in ten drops of water is equal to all the stars in the known universe.

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It's a question that every future scientist probably asked during that first trip to the beach as a child: Are there more sands of grain on Earth, or stars in the sky? Well, scientists now finally have an answer, and it might surprise you, according to NPR.

Though it would be an impossible task to actually count the sand and stars, a group of scientists at the University of Hawaii recently came up with a reasonable way to get an estimate. And since Hawaii is home to some of the world's most renowned observatories and beaches, we'll take their word for it.

They began by postulating an average size for a grain of sand and by calculating the number of sand grains in a teaspoon. Then the number of beaches and deserts in the world were factored in. Multiplied all together, the number is staggering. Since you aren't likely to own a calculator with enough digits to represent the result, here it is in shorthand: 7.5 x 1018 grains of sand. In simpler, though equally as incomprehensible terms, that is 7 quintillion, 500 quadrillion grains. Or in terms simpler still: a lot.

Calculating the number of stars is even trickier since the limits of space are still largely speculative. Our scope is limited to what we can view from Earth and Earth's orbit, with our eyes and telescopes. If we opt to limit our scope to the number of stars that are observable with the naked eye, on a clear night from Earth, then the grains of sand will get an easy victory. Even with minimal light pollution, we aren't likely to make out more than a few thousand stars. So scientists upped the ante by estimating the number of stars that are potentially observable by Hubble. If you include every object that twinkles in the night sky, from ordinary stars to quasars, to red dwarfs, to whole galaxies, etc., then the number of stars in the observable universe is astounding. The number? 70 thousand million, million, million stars.

For the mathematically disinclined who may still wonder which number is larger: It's the stars, by far. But before we're ready to crown a champion, let's put things in perspective. Earth is one tiny little planet in the context of the whole universe. The fact that it contains so many sand grains compared to the number of stars in the sky is pretty awe-inspiring. It just goes to show that the universe is just as vast when you look at it closely as when you look at it from far away.


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