What is the Milky Way?

We see the Milky Way as a band of stars stretching right across the heavens. On a clear night in the country far from towns, it is a spectacular sight. The sun, all the stars we can see in the sky, and spectacular sight. Let’s know detail about what is the milky way?

The sun, all the stars we can see in the sky and 100,000 million more besides, make up a vast group of stars called the galaxy. The stars lie in spiral arms radiating out from a large cluster. Edge on, the galaxy looks like a flat disc with a central bulge.

When we look at the Milky Way, we are looking at the arms of the galaxy and so see a belt of stars across the sky. The galaxy formed from interstellar gas 7,500 million to 15,000 million years ago. It is 100,000 light-years across.

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The galaxy from above. The red arrow indicates the position of the sun

The galaxy seen edge on

The galaxy seen edge on

The Andromeda galaxy is a magnificent spiral galaxy very like our own galaxy

The Andromeda galaxy is a magnificent spiral galaxy very like our own galaxy

Where and what are the Galaxies?

Our galaxy, vast island of stars though it is, is only one of millions of similar galaxies scattered throughout space as far away as we can see through our telescopes. The nearest galaxies to our galaxy are two small satellite galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds.

They can be seen only in the southern hemisphere, and look like pieces torn out of the Milky Way. A large nearby galaxy is the Andromeda galaxy, which can be seen with the naked eye as a faint patch. It is over 2 million light-years away.

Galaxies come in many shapes. Many are spiral. Elliptical galaxies look like globular clusters of stars, and irregular galaxies such as the Magellanic Clouds have no particular structure. About a hundred million galaxies can be seen with the largest telescopes. Galaxies, like stars, tend to form clusters and our galaxy is one of a cluster of over twenty that include the Andromeda galaxy.

Elliptical and irregular galaxies

Elliptical and irregular galaxies

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