Back before Copernicus and Galileo, we used to believe we were at the centre of the universe, and everything revolved around us. Then we worked out that we lived on one of nine planets that circled the sun, and later that we were in an arm of the Milky Way that circled its centre. We now know we are part of a supercluster of clusters of galaxies, called Laniakea.
To the centre of our supercluster, called the Great Attractor, is about 250 light years. The distance to the edge of the observable universe is 46 bn light years away. For us the reality is that we sit at the centre of all we can observe in space.
We have measured and mapped three “great walls” of galaxies, parts of a series of filaments of galaxies. We think all up to the observable edge, there are 1-2 trillion galaxies, of which we are capable of detecting about 100 billion.
So that is an awful lot of rock, and gas, some liquids, and nuclear fusion reactors to light up our night sky, just for nine billion human beings on one relatively very tiny planet, with only the sun and moon really of any interest to organisms other than us.
So that’s ten detectable galaxies each. As the author of the song about a sunburnt country might have put it, wilful and lavish.
A recent paper even suggests that before the Big Bang, the point from which it came was the result of a previous universe shrinking to that point.
There is also evidence that the radiation flowing to us from the earliest days of the formation of the universe, the cosmic microwave background, is aligned with the plane of our solar system. Some cosmologists find it disconcerting that of all the solar systems in the universe, ours is at least one of those with this seemingly special alignment.
We are here, conscious, and self-aware, with the scientific skills to observe those things which are outside the radiation detection range of our eyes or detectable using instruments, and with the knowledge we have developed of maths. There is no one else that we know of who would know that the universe exists. Of the organisms on earth, only we know we exist. Our chances of ever holding a conversation with anyone else beyond our solar system are very low. Physics says that it would take nine years to receive a response from a planet near the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. (7.8 years for someone around in 11900 AD, when Barnard’s Star gets closer).
We have somehow found ourselves with passions and emotions, some connected to sex, procreation and child-rearing. Some positive, some negative. We are not the only species to experience some of these.
Why all that, with just us here as far as we know or are likely to know, on this, relatively speaking, ultra tiny blue speck?
A variety of responses to our situation has arisen among us, some brute, some philosophical based on a shared view of what is reason. Some are grounded in experiences and beliefs which are considered to reflect an ultimate reality beyond anything we can observe logically. They give us a sense of where we “fit in”.
Some readers may like to watch this, showing galaxy flow:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTws86Z_YI8