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The foregoing discussion has likely impressed on you that the universe is extraordinarily large and extraordinarily empty. On average, it is 10,000 times more empty than our Galaxy. Yet, as we have seen, even the Galaxy is mostly empty space. The air we breathe has about 10 19 atoms in each cubic centimeter—and we usually think of air as empty space. In the interstellar gas of the Galaxy, there is about one atom in every cubic centimeter. Intergalactic space is filled so sparsely that to find one atom, on average, we must search through a cubic meter of space. Most of the universe is fantastically empty; places that are dense, such as the human body, are tremendously rare.

Even our most familiar solids are mostly space. If we could take apart such a solid, piece by piece, we would eventually reach the tiny molecules from which it is formed. Molecules are the smallest particles into which any matter can be divided while still retaining its chemical properties. A molecule of water (H 2 O), for example, consists of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together.

Molecules, in turn, are built of atoms, which are the smallest particles of an element that can still be identified as that element. For example, an atom of gold is the smallest possible piece of gold. Nearly 100 different kinds of atoms (elements) exist in nature. Most of them are rare, and only a handful account for more than 99% of everything with which we come in contact. The most abundant elements in the cosmos today are listed in [link] ; think of this table as the “greatest hits” of the universe when it comes to elements.

The Cosmically Abundant Elements
Element This list of elements is arranged in order of the atomic number, which is the number of protons in each nucleus. Symbol Number of Atoms per
Million Hydrogen Atoms
Hydrogen H 1,000,000
Helium He 80,000
Carbon C 450
Nitrogen N 92
Oxygen O 740
Neon Ne 130
Magnesium Mg 40
Silicon Si 37
Sulfur S 19
Iron Fe 32

All atoms consist of a central, positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons. The bulk of the matter in each atom is found in the nucleus, which consists of positive protons and electrically neutral neutrons all bound tightly together in a very small space. Each element is defined by the number of protons in its atoms. Thus, any atom with 6 protons in its nucleus is called carbon , any with 50 protons is called tin , and any with 70 protons is called ytterbium . (For a list of the elements, see Appendix K .)

The distance from an atomic nucleus to its electrons is typically 100,000 times the size of the nucleus itself. This is why we say that even solid matter is mostly space. The typical atom is far emptier than the solar system out to Neptune. (The distance from Earth to the Sun, for example, is only 100 times the size of the Sun.) This is one reason atoms are not like miniature solar systems.

Remarkably, physicists have discovered that everything that happens in the universe, from the smallest atomic nucleus to the largest superclusters of galaxies, can be explained through the action of only four forces: gravity, electromagnetism (which combines the actions of electricity and magnetism), and two forces that act at the nuclear level. The fact that there are four forces (and not a million, or just one) has puzzled physicists and astronomers for many years and has led to a quest for a unified picture of nature.

Questions & Answers

How to determine the velocity of light?
PARTHIB Reply
what is mean by Big Bang
block Reply
What it means by Big Bang is how the world was made and came in to exist
Glory
The Big Bang Is The Best Explanation For What We See Around Us, And For The Origin Of The Universe, All Our Evidence Points To The Big Bang Theory..... And Was Proposed By A Belgian Priest.....
Adam
if the big bang theory is really true than i would like to know what exploded and where did it came from and where did the energy came from and where come from for the matter to expand into amd where did the organization come from and where did the information come from.........
Gospel
Some say that on the otherside of the singularity was a black hole. They say that at the other end of all black holes is another universe. Hence the multiverse. It's all theoretical at this point but less than a 100 years ago people believed that there was only 1 galaxy in the universe. So why
Rafael
should there be only 1 universe?
Rafael
universe.
Rafael
is astronomy a hard subject to learn because i want to be an astronomer
FNAF Reply
No it not it just takes time and effort to learn
Glory
Why are they so far away that their light takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us on earth?
LadyCatTM Reply
what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
comets are broken pieces of dust frozen debris Asteroids are big soiled pieces of Ice that burst into flames when it in to earth's atmosphere
Glory
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
wow from NASA ur so lucky
FNAF
hello yamini nice to meet you
block
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
guys listen we cannot ever find aliens because our technology is not that great.we don't know whether they exist or no because our universe is very large . Just for an example;even if we spot out aliens we cannot reach there because lot of time must have been passed and before us reaching there
Samuel
what if their species or existence might get vanished our have been extinct!! getting my point
Samuel
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
hi
Samuel
8
Samuel
Hi
Amit
hi
Alebiosu

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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