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The List: 5 facts about stars

Gazing at stars
A camper gazes at a star-filled sky near the Mattehorn, one of the mountains in the Swiss Alps.

Here are some facts about the celestial bodies that helped inspire the Star Ribbon stamp that USPS will release this week.

1. The sun is the star closest to the Earth. While this might be a well-known fact, what you may not know is that 1 million Earths could fit inside the sun — and the sun is considered to be an average-size star.

2. There are only 9,096 stars visible to the naked eye. To see more, you have to use a telescope to reveal stars fainter than your eyes can see. Motivated astronomers can request use of the Hubble Space Telescope through the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy.

3. Sailors have been guided by the North Star for millennia. Also known as Polaris, the star has been one of humanity’s favored navigational icons and has always been helpful to sailors in determining latitude and locating the direction of North because it stays fixed in the night sky.

4. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. Each galaxy contains an estimated hundred billion stars, and there are estimated to be more than 2 trillion galaxies in the universe. So the total number of stars in the universe is estimated to be 700 sextillion — more than the total amount of grains of sand on every beach on the planet.

5. When you look into the night sky, you are looking back in time. The stars seen in the night sky are trillions of kilometers away from us, so far away the star light we see with our naked eye has taken light years to reach us. This means whenever we go stargazing we are actually experiencing how those stars looked in the past.

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