Milky Way – the home to our home – is one of the most common forms of galaxies out there in universe. Though pretty common, Milky Way galaxy is one hell of an interesting galaxy with mind-boggling facts that will make you say – Really? Is that even possible? Let us find out 20 interesting Milky Way galaxy facts and in the process, find out exactly where we lie of this vast ocean of celestial objects.
Interesting Milky Way Galaxy Facts: 1-10
1. In India, Milky Way has been referred to as Aakash Ganga, which literally translates into: “Ganga of the heavens.”
2. The Chinese call it the Silver River. In Chinese mythology, there was weaver woman who used to weave clothes for gods and there was herdsman who was in love with this weaver. The gods wanted to separate the two and put this Silver River between them.
3. The ancient Greeks called this galaxy as Milky Circle. As per Greek Mythology, suckling Heracles was being fed by Hera. Accidentally, some milk spilled over, giving birth to the Milky Circle.
4. The ancient Greeks had another explanation too! They looked upon the galaxy as a road that led to Mount Olympus.
5. Okay, there is yet another explanation found in Greek mythology. This one says that the Milky Way is the path of ruins left behind by the chariot of Sun God Helios.
6. The Milky Way reminded the Romans about milk and hence, they called it the Milky Road.
7. Democritus was the first man in world to claim that Milky Way was made up of stars. He was a Greek philosopher who lived circa 460 BCE to 370 BCE.
8. It was not until the 17th Century CE that Democritus’ claim was proven by Galileo Galilei who eventually used his telescope (the first one ever made in 1610 CE) to validate that the light band that has been called as Milky Circle by the Greeks or Milky Road by the Romans or the Aakash Ganga by the Indians or the Silver River by the Chinese was actually the light emitted by numerous individual stars.
9. Scientists estimate that this galaxy has somewhere between 100 and 400 billion stars. However, at night when we look up at sky and manage to get a glimpse of the galaxy, we are able to see on 0.0000025% of all stars present in the galaxy.
10. Scientists believe that at the very center of Milky Way galaxy sits a supermassive or gargantuan Black Hole that is known as Sagittarius A*.
Interesting Milky Way Galaxy Facts: 11-20
11. Can you guess the number of planets that sit in this galaxy? Well, the scientists estimate that there are at least (if not more) 100 billion planets hanging out there in our galaxy… And we still think we are all alone in this universe?
12. Okay, here is another problem – Milky Way is not the only galaxy out there. We read about Andromeda Galaxy which is on a collision course with Milky Way. That’s just another one out there. In fact, the Universe is dotted with galaxies. There are billions of galaxies in universe. Scientists say that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the known universe. You still believe we are alone?
13. Scientists have found some really weird planets like the one where molten glass rains down or the one which is known as burning ice planet and even a diamond planet. There is absolutely no scarcity of such oddities in our galaxy but there are, according to scientists, about 11 to 40 billion planets that are similar to Earth and can possibly host life.
14. Milky Way galaxy took birth some 12.5 billion years ago – give or take 3 billion years. The galaxy has been growing ever since. In fact, it is a cannibal galaxy that feeds on other surrounding and small galaxies. And… it will continue to do so.
15. Scientists estimate that about 7 stars are born in Milky Way every single year (we are talking about new stars being born and not counting the ones that are consumed from other galaxies). Also, a supernova explosion takes place in our galaxy once in about every 200 years. This has been calculated using the method of mapping aluminum-26 isotope which is usually found in the region where a star dies or takes birth.
16. At the very center of our galaxy is a bulge which extends out on either side of the two-dimensional plane of the spiral galaxy. Interestingly, this bulge is caused by hydrogen and it is really weird because the molecules of hydrogen are not only being pulled away from the galactic center but are also known to have separate vibrating frequencies. Scientists blame this on black matter saying that when the black matter moves through galactic clouds, ripples are created, affecting Milky Way’s gravitation, enticing hydrogen molecules away from the center.
17. This central bulge of the galaxy is extremely thick. We mean, the distance between the topmost point of the bulge to its bottom-most point is 10,000 light years.
18. Our entire Solar System sits at a distance of nearly 27,000 light years from Milky Way’s galactic center.
19. Milky Way is just a part of a cluster of galaxies known as the Local Group. This Local Group contains about 40 galaxies. This Local Group again is a member of a Local Supercluster, which is made up of multiple clusters of galaxies like the Local Group. So, just how big is the Local Supercluster? One edge of the Local Supercluster is separated from the other edge by a distance of 10 million light years.
20. Our Solar System is circumnavigating around the Milky Way’s galactic center at a speed of about 220 kilometers a second. If a human can travel at that speed, it will take just 175 seconds to circumnavigate around Earth’s equator! You think that is fast? Think again! At that speed, it takes our Solar System to complete one rotation around the galactic center in 250 million years. So, since the birth of our Solar System some 4.6 billion years ago, it has managed to rotate around the galactic core at the most 20 times. Since the humans came to existence, the Solar System has managed to complete only 1/1250th of one complete rotation.