- The Milky Way Galaxy, our home in the cosmos, holds a host of fascinating facts waiting to be explored.
- With its warped shape, the Milky Way has been influenced by neighboring galaxies, creating a unique celestial phenomenon.
- The galaxy’s mysterious dark matter halo remains invisible but plays a crucial role in its structure and dynamics.
- Boasting over 200 billion stars, the Milky Way is a middleweight compared to other galaxies.
- The galaxy’s dusty and gassy composition, though not apparent to the naked eye, is essential for star formation and exploration.
The Milky Way Galaxy, an awe-inspiring expanse of the cosmos, is a treasure trove of captivating and enlightening facts. Its vast disk, spanning 120,000-180,000 light-years in diameter, is far from flat and has a distinct warp attributed to gravitational interactions with the neighboring Large and Small Magellanic clouds.
Beyond what meets the eye, scientists believe that 90% of the galaxy’s mass is composed of dark matter, forming an enigmatic and invisible halo surrounding its luminous matter. This invisible mass has a substantial influence on the rotation rates of stars within the galaxy’s disk, confounding the observer’s expectations.
With over 200 billion stars, the Milky Way is considered a middleweight galaxy, compared to the giants that house trillions of stars. Although it may appear serene, the galaxy is teeming with dust and gas, comprising about 10-15% of its visible matter. Infrared telescopes, like the Spitzer Space Telescope, pierce through this cosmic dust, revealing the galaxy’s heart and star-forming regions.
Notably, the Milky Way’s majestic spiral form is the result of past galactic feasts, as it has devoured other galaxies throughout its existence. Despite this history, taking a snapshot of the Milky Way from above remains elusive, as we are firmly nestled within the galaxy’s disk.
At the heart of the Milky Way lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*, with an accretion disk containing 4.6 million solar masses of matter. This massive phenomenon has not deterred star formation in its vicinity.
Remarkably, the Milky Way itself is almost as old as the universe, with an estimated age of 13.6 billion years. It forms part of the Virgo Supercluster, an immense galactic grouping spanning hundreds of millions of light-years.
Finally, as part of the ever-expanding universe, the Milky Way is in constant motion. The Earth orbits the Sun, the Sun orbits the center of the galaxy, and the galaxy, along with the Local Group, moves relative to the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation, a relic of the Big Bang.
The Milky Way Galaxy, our celestial home, continues to intrigue and inspire astronomers and stargazers alike, unveiling its wonders one discovery at a time.
Read full article on Universe Today
Gate keeper to the stars. Credit: @grafixart_photo
Credit: Miguel Claro
This was taken hours before a waning crescent moon rose at Joshua Tree National Park
The milky way was setting at the horizon by the time it got dark at Dead Horse Point, UT, in early November.
Amr Abdulwahab took this image of the Milky Way on July 8, 2022. Amr wrote: “Sahara el Beyda, the White Desert Protected Area, is a national park in Egypt, first established as a protected area in 2002. It is located in the Farafra depression, 28 miles (45 km) north of the town of Qsar El Farafra. Part of the park is in the Farafra Oasis (New Valley Governorate). The park is the site of large white chalk rock formations, created through erosion by wind and sand.”
Chuck Reinhart in Vincennes, Indiana, took this image of our Milky Way galaxy on August 23, 2022. Chuck wrote: “I merged 5 photos to make this panorama of the Milky Way.”
Mohamed Farouk at Kottamia Astronomical Observatory in Egypt took this image of the galactic core on August 27, 2022.
Osama Fathi in Egypt took this image on August 6, 2022. Osama wrote: “Panorama of the Milky Way arch over the sand dunes of the Egyptian western desert near El Fayoum at the beginning of Perseid meteor shower. Taken over 3 nights (August 5-6-7, 2022). We captured more than 1,200 photos to get this number of meteors near the desert of El Fayoum.”