During the clear and especially moonless nights of July, August, and September, a milky-white stripe surrounds the sky and catches the eye of those that love watching the night sky. It flows like a river in the sky. In places, it “flows” calmly, in a narrow trough, and suddenly “spills” and expands. At one point, it splits into two arms, which merge again into a wide, milky white river that “flows” across the celestial sphere. This is the Milky Way.
In the universe, stars and diffuse nebulae (light and dark) form giant star systems called galaxies. The Milky Way is our galaxy, where our solar system is also located, along with another 200 billion stars and planets, thousands of star clusters, and nebulae. The Milky Way is a giant spiral galaxy with a mass of between 750 billion and 1 trillion solar masses, about 100,000 light-years in diameter and just 1,000 light-years thick. All stars that are visible to the naked eye in the night sky belong to the Milky Way.
The existence of the Milky Way in the celestial sphere is due to the fact that the distant stars of our Galaxy cannot be seen with the naked eye individually, and therefore this milky white stripe is obtained, which surrounds the entire celestial sphere. However, just by looking through a telescope, you will see that the “clouds” of the Milky Way are formed by individual stars.
To get a clearer idea of the size of the Milky Way and the absolutely incredible number of stars in it, you can look at the photos below, published just a few days ago.
Latest Survey of Milky Way & The Images
It is amazing how much we learn about the universe with each passing year. Look at the previous months of September and October – dozens of groundbreaking discoveries about our Solar System. While the following photos are not what we normally call a discovery, they are astonishing in detail.
Revealed by a team of astronomers, they conducted a survey on the central bulge of the Milky Way. What they examined were more than 250 million stars through their light fingerprint. What’s important is that they were also able to construct a massive color-composite view by using the near-ultraviolet, near-infrared, and optical light of the stars. This image measures 50,000 x 25,000 pixels and a zoomable version is also available here. By far, this has to be the most detailed image of the Milky Way, or at least, I cannot recall seeing a better one.
The success of this survey became possible through the usage of the Dark Energy Matter Camera (DECam) mounted on the Victor M. Blanco 4-m telescope.
Out of the 250 million stars they were able to capture, the team of astronomers focused on 70,000 whose chemical composition they were able to analyze. What they found was that the ones closer to the center of the Milky Way had a strikingly similar composition which means that they must have an identical origin, i.e. same age and materials.
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