The Milky Way Galaxy (to use its full title) is the name given to the galaxy that contains our Solar System. This is one of the most fascinating and significant parts of space, and is home to our planet, giving us a connection to it. It is spiral-shaped, with four arms, and a galactic center containing a supermassive black hole. The Milky Way has fascinated scientists and astronomers for years, and we discover new things about it every year.
Because of the importance of the Milky Way, we think it pays to know as much as possible about it. There are so many facts that are interesting, and some wonderful scientific tidbits to consider when it comes to looking at the Milky Way. Let’s take a look at some of the great facts you never knew about our galaxy.
It contains over 200 billion stars
The Milky Way is incredibly huge and expansive, and it contains over 200 billion stars. This is such a vast number we can’t even begin to comprehend it. But, in terms of galaxies, the Milky Way is actually kind of in the middle. To put this into perspective, the largest known galaxy in space has over 100 trillion stars, while dwarf galaxies have as little as 10 billion stars in them! This should put into perspective just how vast and expansive these galaxies are – 200 billion stars is an astronomical amount!
It’s made from other galaxies
Believe it or not, the Milky Way was actually made up of other galaxies. It wasn’t always the iconic warped spiral we so admire these days. In fact, the way the galaxy got its size and shape was by absorbing other galaxies into itself in the process. Famously, the Milky Way once consumed the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy and continues to add to its size and shape. The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is another whose stars are slowly becoming a part of our galaxy.
We’ve never seen it
You’ve seen pictures of the Milky Way before, right? There are loads of different photos and pictures of the spiral. However, what you may not know is that the spiral we see is not actually our own Milky Way. In fact, we have never seen a true picture of our Milky Way, because it’s impossible to capture one. Our Solar System is inside the spiral, and 26,000 light years from the center – so capturing a photo of it is practically impossible. We have to rely on pictures of similar galaxies, or artistic interpretations.
It’s almost as old as the universe
It should come as no surprise that something with the celestial beauty and majesty of the Milky Way is ancient as well! It is estimated that the universe itself is approximately 13.7 billion years old and that the Milky Way has existed for close to 13.6 billion, give or take. Of course, this was the galaxy as it used to be, and it has grown a lot larger since that time.
Outer space is always a source of great mystery for us, and it provides so much information about the Solar System. The Milky Way Galaxy is the one in which our Earth exists, but it’s certainly not the only one out there.