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The ever-lasting question: more sand or stars?

Let's examine some of astronomy's most famous clichés.

berman
Carl Sagan wrote in his book Cosmos that there are more stars in the universe than all the sand grains on Earth. You still hear this from time to time; it’s one of those astronomy clichés that never goes away. It’s an awe-provoking image that captures the vastness of the cosmos in a way that mere numbers cannot. 
Except it isn’t true.

I set out to tackle this more than 20 years ago, during my 16th year with Discover magazine. I initially tried to research the answer, with no luck. You’d think someone would have already attempted to confirm this well-worn cliché, but I had to do it myself.

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