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Milky Way Facts

1. It’s warped.
The Milky Way Galaxy is a barred spiral galaxy disk that has a diameter of about 100,000 – 120,000 light years across. The Galactic center has a central bulge from which the spiral arms extend.

2. It has an invisible halo.
Our galaxy is made up of about 90% dark matter, matter that cannot be seen, and about 10% “luminous matter”, or matter that we can see with our eyes.

3. It has over 200 billion stars.
The Milky Way is only a medium sized galaxy with an estimated 200 billion stars.

4. It’s really dusty and gassy.
About 10-15% of the Milky Way’s visible matter is made of dust and gas, with the rest being stars. On a clear night, the dusty ring of the Milky Way can be seen in the night sky.

5. It was made from other galaxies.
In order for the Milky Way to achieve its current size and shape it has consumed other galaxies throughout its history. Our galaxy is currently consuming the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy by adding the smaller galaxy’s stars to its own spiral.

6. We can’t take pictures of it.
Since we are located about 26,000 light years from the Milky Way’s center we cannot take pictures of the disk. Any representation that you have ever seen of our galaxy is either a different spiral galaxy or what an artist thinks it might look like.

7. There is a black hole at the center.
Like most larger galaxies, the Milky Way has a supermassive black hole at its center called Sagittarius A* which has about 14.6 million times the mass of our Sun.

8. It’s almost as old as the Universe itself.
Scientists estimate that the Universe is about 13.7 billion years old and that the Milky Way is about 13.6 billion years old. Although the main parts of the galaxy were formed in the early days of the Universe, the disk and the bulge did not fully form until about 10-12 billion years ago.

9. It’s part of the Virgo Supercluster, a group of galaxies within 150 million light years.
The Virgo Supercluster contains at least 100 galaxy groups and clusters, and is about 110 million light-years in diameter. A 2014 study shows that the Virgo Supercluster is only one lobe of a greater supercluster called Laniakea.

10. It’s on the move.
Everything in space, including the Milky Way, is moving. The Earth moves around the Sun, the Sun moves in the Milky Way, and the Milky Way cruises through space. The Local Group of galaxies, which the Milky Way is part of, is estimated to be moving at about 600 km/s or 2.2 million km/hr!

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How to see the Milky Way Galaxy from Earth at night with the naked eye?

The Milky Way Galaxy is one of the most interesting naked eye sights in the night sky. The name comes from its appearance as a dim glowing milky band arching across the night sky. The term Milky Way is a translation from Latin via lactea and Greek milky circle as seen from inside. However, it’s not bright, and it’s not always well placed to be seen. So to see the Milky Way Galaxy Earth, you will have to meet the following minimum requirements:
‐ Finding a dark clear night sky with no moonlight are the key words here for a best view of the Milky Way in the grand design (you can get an app that will show you the Moon Phases Calendar);
‐ No city lights, no headlights, basically as far as you can from any source of light pollution. You will need to travel far from any city, to a wild area or rural countryside. The best viewing site would be from the middle of the ocean either northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere being so far away from the artificial city lights.
‐ No telescopes, no binoculars, (just eyeglasses if you’re near sighted) and at least one eyeball. TIP: Using binoculars can increase the view experience being able to see other galaxies as Andromeda Galaxy (M31), nebulae and event comets.
‐ Best atmospheric conditions, a misty sky wouldn’t block it completely, nor would humidity. It would make it not as sharp, but still visible.
‐ Give your eyes at least 15-20 minutes to adapt to the darkness though. Your eyes will become more sensitive to low light level.
‐ A little bit of timing in late summer or winter evenings in Northern Hemisphere.

We live in the Milky Way Galaxy, this means that every time we gaze at the night sky we are looking at the Milky Way Galaxy. More exactly the spiral arm closer to the galactic center one part of the year and in the other part we see the near edge of the spiral arm farther from the galactic center. Due to nebula and dust clouds, we can’t see the center of the Milky Way (in visible light) at any time.

What can I see in the Milky Way Galaxy from Earth?

  • The summer Milky Way will look brighter in the Northern Hemisphere. Most noticeably you should be able to see the Great Rift in good dark skies. This dark lane in the Milky Way Galaxy between Cygnus and Scutum is where a string of dense interstellar clouds block the view of more distant stars. At longer wavelengths in the infrared, light passes through these clouds more easily and we get a better view of the overall shape of our Galaxy, but there are still enough clouds created a dark reddened lane through the middle of the Milky Way Galaxy.
  • The two Magellanic Clouds irregular dwarf galaxies are visible from the Southern Hemisphere which may be orbiting our Milky Way Galaxy.

Milky Way facts

  • How big is the Milky Way Galaxy?

    The Milky Way Galaxy is our home in the existing Univers, it is a barred spiral galaxy 100,000‐120,000 light-years in diameter containing 200‐400 billion stars and at least as many planets including our solar system. The galactic center is named Sagittarius A and its belived to hold a supermassive black hole with an estimated mass of 4.1‐4.5 million times the mass of our Sun.

  • How old is the Milky Way Galaxy?

    Milky Way Galaxy is approximately 13.7 billion years old, almost as the Universe itself. The age is determined by taking the age of the stars in the Milky Way.

  • Stars in the Milky Way Galaxy

    The Milky Way contains at least 100 billion stars and may have up to 400 billion stars. The exact number is not known.

  • Milky Way Galaxy from Earth

    Earth, along with the Solar System, is situated in the Milky Way galaxy, orbiting about 28,000 light years from the center of the galaxy.

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