How Big Is Space?

As far as humans can tell, space is infinite; it has no end or borders. Scientists believe that space will always seem infinite to humans for two reasons. First, our investigation of space has never found an edge (or any indications of an edge). Second, measurements show that space is expanding faster and faster, which pushes the edges of the universe ? if there are any ? ever farther out.

Space is continuing to expand (meaning that all the galaxies are speeding away from the center of the universe) because of the Big Bang’s momentum and because of a substance called dark energy. Dark energy occupies the seemingly empty parts of the universe, but it has a strong negative pressure, pushing things away from each other even faster than they would move as a result of the Big Bang. This makes it difficult for humans to measure the farthest reaches of space.

In addition, anything traveling through space ? including humans’ investigative tools, techniques and measurements ? is limited to the fastest possible speed: the speed of light. Because nothing can travel faster than light, there is a limit to how far scientists can explore or understand the universe. The size of the observable universe (the part astronomers could potentially study) is approximately 45.7 billion light-years across.