How Many Stars in Sky? 40 Billion (Mar, 1932)

I believe this article was posted around the time that astronomers started using the term “galaxy” in the modern sense. (Though I couldn’t find any firm dates on when this occurred) Previously the prevailing term had been Spiral Nebulae or other assorted terms like “star cloud” used below. This makes sense as it was only in the 1920’s that Hubble showed galaxies existed outside of the Milky Way.

Incidentally, the current estimate for the number of stars in the Milky Way is 200-400 billion. And of course the Milky Way is only one of roughly 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe. Yeah, the universe is a really, really big(video).

How Many Stars in Sky? 40 Billion

NEW counts of the number of stars that could be seen with perfect telescopes of unlimited power were announced recently by astronomers of Mount Wilson Observatory. The number of stars visible to an unaided human eye probably is not over 6000. But large telescopes, like the great 100-inch one at Mount Wilson, which is the largest in the world, show millions of stars even in a small part of the sky.

Calculations based on the numbers of stars visible in the 100-inch telescope indicate that the total number of stars in the sky is probably thirty or forty billion, about six or seven million times as many as can be seen by the naked eye.

It is found that all the individual stars which we can see belong to a limited star cloud of which our sun is one. Earthly astronomers necessarily see this cloud from the inside looking out.

  1. Stephen says: September 12, 20125:29 am

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the world “galaxy” in the modern sense was in J P Nichol’s “The Stellar Universe”, in 1848. He talks of “Superb groups or galaxies separated from each other by gulfs so awful, that they surpass the distances which divide star from star.‥ Amid this system of clusters, floats the galaxy whose glories more nearly surround us.” The book is available online, and is surprisingly modern: he is aware, for instance, that the universe is at least millions of light-years across, which clearly implies it wasn’t created in 4004BC. Hubble PROVED that the Universe was big, but the hypothesis that the “spiral nebulae” were separate galaxies existed well before that.….

  2. Charlie says: September 12, 20126:37 am

    Stephen: Thanks! That’s interesting.

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