How Many Stars are there in the Universe?
This is one of those subjects on which people will disagree. Why? Simply because we can’t actually count the exact number of stars in the universe. In fact, it is impossible to count the stars that make up our particular solar system. There is general agreement among astronomers that there are billions of stars in the universe, however.
Human beings began to wonder about this subject many centuries ago. Early astronomers first looked using their eyes then eventually got some help from basic telescopes. With their own calculations and with help from mathematicians the first scientists tried to come up with estimates. In past centuries it may have been easier to actually see more stars because there was less man-made light on the Earth to interfere. On very clear nights in rural areas today it is still possible to see more stars. Modern telescopes have brought many more stars into view.
One thing to keep in mind is that stars are grouped together in what we call galaxies. This makes it easier to see lots of stars. If they were widely scattered over the universe it would seem as if there were fewer stars. But with stars gathered in galaxies we can see millions upon millions of stars quite easily. The most recent estimates by astronomers (educated guesses) put the number of stars in our galaxy alone at 100 billion. (The galaxy that contains our sun and planets is called the Milky Way.) With billions of stars in each galaxy there are billions of billions of stars in the universe!
One of the most accurate methods for counting the stars in the universe is called mapping. Astronomers view a definite section of the sky and count the stars in that part, then multiply the number actually counted by the number of similar-size areas in the sky to get close to a total number. This is only a representative number, however. From this, astronomers try to estimate the number of galaxies in the universe and multiply that number by the star count in the Milky Way.
In recent years, the ability to put scientific instruments into space for a closer look has resulted in more accurate star counts. Not only that but satellites and cameras launched into space provide other information about stars. Scientists are even able to study the light levels of different stars and add stars to the count. Some of these stars were not visible before, even with the best telescopes.
Why is it important to know how many stars there are in the universe? It’s not particularly crucial to the existence of life on Earth (at least not directly). But human beings have always been curious about what the universe is made of. We have always been intrigued about our place in the vast expanse of space. Counting the stars is one part of the overall knowledge human beings seek. For the Universe, the galaxies are our small representative volumes, and there are something like 1011 to 1012 stars in our galaxy, and there are perhaps something like 1011 or 1012 galaxies. So we can say that galaxies, on average have between 100 billion and 1 trillion numbers of stars.