Sizes and Scale

Often, when we look into space, it is hard to understand how big objects really are. 

Working out sizes in space is tricky because the things we can see are different distances away from us here on Earth. The further away something is, the smaller it appears to be.

Using our free software, we can measure how big objects actually are if they are all at the same distance from us.

But it is also interesting to compare how big they are in the sky.
From where we live in the Universe, how big do different objects appear to be?

Astrophotographer Nicolas Large thought so, too, and he spent 4 years taking beautiful images of some of the most famous objects in space. He then created a poster that shows each of these to scale if we could see them all together to the same level of detail.

The results are amazing!

An image of various objects in space to the same scale on the night sky.
Credit: Nicolas Large, reproduced with permission

Some of these objects you might recognise from our Go Observing catalogue, including the Moon (centre), the Triffid (f), Crab (g), and Ring (k) nebulae, and the Whirlpool (q) and the Cigar (q) galaxies. You can request your own observations of these objects through our Go Observing pages (registration is quick and free!).

It's interesting to see objects like the Helix Nebula (n) and the Pinwheel Galaxy (r) look around the same size in the night sky. In fact, the Pinwheel is over 28,000 times bigger. It seems the same size because it is so much further away.