By David Derbyshire, Science Correspondent 12:01AM BST 23 Jul 2003
Astronomers have worked out that there are 70 thousand million million million – or seven followed by 22 zeros – stars visible from the Earth through telescopes. The total is said to be the most accurate estimate yet of the number of stars.
Dr Simon Driver, who led the study at the Australian National University, said: “Even for a professional astronomer used to dealing in monster numbers, this is mind boggling.”
Without a telescope it is only possible to see around 5,000 stars from the darkest places of the Earth, and just 100 in the middle of a large city.
Rather than count the stars one by one, Dr Driver and colleagues from the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, St Andrews University and the University of New South Wales, counted all the galaxies in one small region of the universe close to the Earth.
By measuring the brightness of each galaxy, the team were able to estimate how many stars it contained and extrapolated for the entire night sky.