Are the stars out tonight?

One of the pleasures of living in the country is the uninterrupted views of the night sky that we get. Tonight, about 2 hours after sunset, we were able to see Venus and Jupiter so clearly that our webcam picked them both up without any special adjustments.
View of Jupiter (left) and Venus (right) from our webcam which faces west
After the Sun and the Moon, Venus is the 3rd brightest object in the sky and Jupiter is the 4th brightest, so to have them both visible next to eachother like this is quite though-provoking. I am always fascinated by the massive numbers used when discussing almost anything about astronomy.

For us, a difference in temperature of just a few degrees can make all the difference. We're currently having a fairly cool June and a temperature of 15° is disappointing compared to 20° or even 25°. Venus, being much closer to the Sun than we are, has staggeringly hot temperatures of at least 460°.

And despite being two of the brightest objects in the sky, they are both vast distances away. Venus is about 162 million miles away from the Earth and Jupiter is even further away - about 365 million miles.

And Jupiter is huge - you could fit 1300 planets the size of the Earth inside Jupiter.

But Venus and Jupiter are our close neighbours. Once we talk about other far away objects - stars and galaxies - the numbers become truly mind-blowing. The farthest object that astronomers have so far been able to find has been named UDFj-39546284. Light from it takes over 13 billion years to reach the Earth and with light travelling at 186,000 miles per second that means that it is a very long way away indeed.

All of which is just a reminder of how insignificant our little planet really is.