If you want to get lost in the most incredible picture ever taken, or just if you catch yourself feeling too significant, head over to the Hubble website’s zoomable Ultra Deep Field photo. Pull in a few of the approximately 10,000 galaxies in this view for closer inspection, realizing our own entire Milky way galaxy with its approximately 100 billion stars would be but one of these. Then try to wrap your head around the fact (and be sure to realize that we are talking about pure scientific fact here) that the deep field is only showing us a portion of our own night sky that is about one *tenth* the diameter of the moon. A full accounting of all the galaxies in the universe might yield *hundreds of billions” of galaxies although the estimates of the number of galaxies seem to vary wildly. I don’t understand this because it seems we could extrapolate from the Hubble untra deep field’s view a pretty good number for the total assuming a roughly even distribution of galaxies throughout the universe.
As feeble minded humans I don’t think we can even come close to appreciating the significance of the Hubble pictures or the numbers.
My personal guess is that there are already many intelligences in this vast universe that can comprehend the cosmos in a meaningful way, and that we have a shot at that kind of intelligence eventually when we find ways to enhance our intellect with computerized intelligence.
Here is a wonderfully written article by Anthony Doerr on this topic