When you look up at the night sky, would you believe me if I told you that you are looking at only our Galaxy? The Milky Way Galaxy. Our Sun and all of the other stars that are visible to us are part of our Milky Way Galaxy. Don't be fooled, it's not small as there are roughly around two hundred billion stars in our galaxy alone.
The Milky Way Galaxy
- The Milky Way is our home Galaxy
- It has a diameter of about 110,000 lightyears long and has a thickness of about 15,000 lightyears.
- The thickest part of our galaxy is in the middle (the nucleus).
- There are other galaxies past ours. However, they are all separated by massive distances.
- Our nearest neighbour is arguably the nearest spiral galaxy neighbour—The Andromeda Galaxy.
- The Andromeda Galaxy is 2,500,000 lightyears away.
The Andromeda Galaxy
- The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest spiral galaxy that is visible to the naked eye, not the closest galaxy.
- To clarify, there are other galaxies closer to the Milky Way than Andromeda.
- It is similar to our galaxy in size and structure.
Do you want to see 'The Andromeda Galaxy' for yourself?
It is also the most distant object visible to the naked eye. And, If you go out at night and look at Andromeda, you are able to see this galaxy with your naked eyes. With that said, you might want to try using binoculars.
You can usually see The Andromeda Galaxy all year round... with that said it will be easier to spot it in late August and early September.
The Ursa Major Constellation
- The Ursa Major constellation can be easily found in the northern sky. Its name means “the great bear,” or “the larger bear,” in Latin.
- To be honest, this is the only constellation I could find before I started taking Astronomy classes. I only knew it as the big dipper back then.
Ursa Major contains a number of notable stars and famous deep sky objects:
- the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101)
- Bode’s Galaxy
- the Cigar Galaxy
- the Owl Nebula
The nearest galaxies to the Milky Way Galaxy are:
- Large Magellanic Cloud (163,000 ly)
- Bootes (197,000 ly)
- Small Magellanic Cloud (206,000 ly)
- Draco Dwarf Galaxy (258,000 ly)
- NGC 2419 Galaxy (275,000 ly)
Some other galaxies that are worth mentioning are the Crab Nebula Galaxy, Sombrero Galaxy, and Cigar Galaxy. With that said, there appears to be no limit to how many galaxies there are. To give a bit of an idea, there are over 250 billion galaxies.
Want to have your mind blown away?
It's hard to understand how big the universe is... so here is something that might help. As mentioned above, there are roughly 250 billion galaxies known galaxies. If you think you process that number... here is more. The average number of stars per galaxy is about 200–300 billion.
Let's do the math:
250 billion stars/galaxy x 250 billion galaxies
= 62,500,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars
Can you try to imagine all those stars in your head?
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“Astronomy Magazine—Interactive Star Charts, Planets, Meteors, Comets, Telescopes.” Astronomy.com, Website.
“Constellation Guide.” Constellation Guide, Website.
Evans, Adam. “M31, The Andromeda Galaxy (Now with h-Alpha).” Flickr, Yahoo!, 18 Sept. 2010, Website.
Sky &amp; Telescope, Website.