We all live in the Milky Way galaxy, but we can barely see it. So to assess its full scale, we have to look at it from the side. As a result, we only have a small part of the big picture available. But even that tiny amount of information we’ve gathered is simply incredible.
These are the 19 almost unbelievable facts about the Milky Way.
1. The Milky Way is about 120,000 light-years across with a bulge in the center. But its shape is far from perfectly flat, and it looks slightly “distorted.”
2. According to scientists, there are about 200,000 million stars in the Milky Way. For comparison, the giant galaxy is known to us, IC 1101, has more than 100 billion stars, which is 500 times more.
3. In Greek mythology, the Milky Way was created when Hera spilled milk while nursing Hercules.
4. The Milky Way has four spiral arms that contain most of the stars. All sentient creatures (that we know of) live near the center of Perseus’s arm.
5. At the galaxy’s center is a supermassive black hole that is millions of times more massive than our Sun. Earth is about 27,000 light-years away from that cosmic goodness.
6. While the solar system is moving at an average speed of 828,812 km/h, it will still take about 230 million years to orbit the entire Milky Way.
7. Astronomers believe that the stars, planets, asteroids, and dust that we see make up only a tenth of the total mass of our galaxy. The remaining 90% is called dark matter.
8. It has been estimated that seven new stars form in the Milky Way each year. They are born from gas and stellar dust, which are the remains of stars that have exploded.
9. The collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies is inevitable. The good news is that it will take about 4.5 billion years. And since the density of the stars in these galaxies is relatively low, they likely pass through each other.
10. These two galaxies are part of more than 54 galaxies called the Local Group. Andromeda’s giant galaxy, the Milky Way, is number two, and the Triangulum galaxy is third.
11. All the stars in our galaxy represent only about 3% of their mass.
12. Despite the billions of stars, you can’t see more than 2,500 of them with an ordinary telescope.
13. Our planet is in the center of the habitable zone of our galaxy. The closer we get to the galactic center, the stronger the cosmic radiation.
14. Our galaxy often attracts stars from other smaller clusters due to its enormous mass.
15. Scientists estimate that our universe has been around for just under 14 billion years. In this case, the Milky Way’s age is estimated to be between 13.5 and 13.6 billion years, which is about the same age as the universe.
16. The Milky Way hasn’t always been a beautifully curved spiral. It had to absorb countless other galaxies to take that form.
17. Just as the planets have satellites, so does the Milky Way. These are relatively small star clusters (by cosmic standards).
18. The Milky Way and Andromeda charge each other at a breakneck speed of 140 km per second.
19. The globular cluster of Omega Centauri used to be a dwarf galaxy, but most of its stars have already been absorbed by the Milky Way.