Every star you see at night is a member of the Milky Way. Yet if you look at the blurry object overhead in winter, about the angular size of the full moon, you are seeing a bundle of stars outside the Milky Way that outnumbers those in the Milky Way. It’s called the Andromeda Galaxy.
Without a telescope, you can’t tell that it is made up of individual stars; it just looks like a fuzzy patch. What makes things a little depressing, though, is that according to scientific estimations, our Milky Way galaxy is going to collide with the Andromeda Galaxy in about 4.5 billion years.
And as you probably understand, that won’t be good at all. But worry not! We can guarantee you that 4.5 billion years from now you will DEFINITELY be dead already.
So, instead of being sad about what happens in 4.5 billion years, why don’t you read 25 Almost Unbelievable Facts About the Milky Way and educate yourself about our beautiful “common home”?
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The Milky Way is as old as the universe itself
Scientists believe that the Milky Way is one of the older galaxies in the universe.
It was formed about 13.6 billion years ago and is almost as old as the universe itself, which formed about 13.7 billion years ago.
The Milky Way's name is ancient
In Greek mythology, the Milky Way was created when Hera spilled her milk while suckling Heracles (Hercules).
It was also described as the road to Mount Olympus, or the path of ruin made by the Helios’ (the sun) chariot.
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. (Talk about an appetite!)
Our solar system orbits the galaxy’s center at around 827,000 kph (514,000 mph).
To get an idea of what these numbers actually mean, keep in mind that an object going this fast could travel around the Earth’s equator in less than three minutes.
It’s really dusty and gassy
Though it may not look like it to the casual observer, the Milky Way is full of dust and gas. This matter makes up a whopping 10-15% of the luminous/visible matter in our galaxy, with the remainder being the stars.
Our galaxy is roughly 100,000 light-years across, and we can only see about 6,000 light-years into the disk in the visible spectrum. Still, when light pollution is not significant, the dusty ring of the Milky Way can be discerned in the night sky.