How many stars are there in the universe?

The band of the Milky Way, across the night sky. Our Sun is only one of a 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Serge Brunier

The band of the Milky Way across the night sky. Our Sun is only one of a 100 billion stars in our galaxy.
Serge Brunier

In asking the question "How many stars are there in the universe?" it is important to distinguish between the universe as a whole and the observable universe. Because the universe was born 13.8 billion years ago, we can only observe objects up to a certain distance from Earth — light from more distant objects hasn’t had time to reach us yet. To answer “how many stars are there,” we must limit the discussion to what we can observe. Astronomers estimate that the observable universe has more than 100 billion galaxies. Our own Milky Way is home to around 300 billion stars, but it’s not representative of galaxies in general. The Milky Way is a titan compared to abundant but faint dwarf galaxies, and it in turn is dwarfed by rare giant elliptical galaxies, which can be 20 times more massive. By measuring the number and luminosity of observable galaxies, astronomers put current estimates of the total stellar population at roughly 70 billion trillion (7 x 1022).

How many stars are there in the night sky?

The number of stars you see in the night sky depends on several variables, including your location’s light pollution and your own vision. In large, light-polluted cities, only a few dozen of the brightest stars may be visible - though that doesn't mean there's nothing to observe from a city. But in a clear, dark sky, a couple thousand stars become visible to the unaided eye.

Go beyond the unaided eye — explore 30,000+ stars, 675 galaxies, and more with Sky & Telescope's classic Pocket Sky Atlas.

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