Amazing Facts about the Milky Way

Amazing Facts about the Milky Way

We have a lot of mysterious things going around us.

The galaxy that contains our Solar System is called the Milky Way. It is full of mysteries and scientists are trying incredibly hard to unveil them but it seems as if all their efforts are proving insufficient, at least for now. Despite the technological advancements, there is a lot about our galaxy that needs to be explored in order to understand it completely. Having said that, some of the most amazing facts about the Milky Way are listed below.

Our Location in the Universe

The large-scale structure of the universe is like a colossal cosmic web which has enormous, mostly empty voids. These voids separate connecting dense regions of the universe. According to a 2013 study, the Milky Way itself lies in an empty space called the Keenan, Barger, and Cowie (KBC) Void. Similarly, another team of researchers found that the Milky Way is floating in one of the big empty areas as they were observing the motion of galaxies in the cosmic web.

The Weight of the Milky Way

It is not an easy task to determine the mass of our galaxy because of the domination of dark matter. Scientists believe that nearly 85% of the Milky Way is made up of dark matter (it doesn’t give off any light). Hence, it cannot be observed directly. Consequently, researchers have no other option but to make use of the gravitational tugs of the galaxy on smaller galaxies that are orbiting around it. Ekta Patel, an Astronomer at the University of Arizona, researched about that and estimated that the mass of the Milky Way is about 960 billion times the mass of the sun.

Number of Stars

What is the best way to count stars? This is one of the most difficult questions in the astronomical world. Even astronomers are uncertain about that because the telescopes can see only the brightest stars in the Milky Way. One of the popular methods to determine the stellar population of our galaxy is to observe how fast stars are orbiting within it. It provides you with some valuable insights about the gravitational tug which, in turn, can be used to determine the mass of the galaxy. Once you have that, simply divide the galactic mass by the average size of a star and you have your answer. However, all these calculations rely a lot on suppositions so they are all approximations. According to the European Space Agency, the Milky Way may contain 100 billion stars.

Huge Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

Scientists have known that for quite some time now that a gigantic black hole lies at the heart of the Milky Way. They traced the path of stars in our galaxy and found that all of them are orbiting an invisible, supermassive object. Having said that, efforts are being made to get a glimpse of the black hole by combining observations from a number of telescopes. This project is called the Event Horizon Telescope and it may have some preliminary images of the black hole’s edge in near future.

Toxic Grease

Certain types of stars in our galaxy produce Aliphatic Carbon Compounds. These oily organic molecules are leaked out into the interstellar space which creates a bunch of dirty grease in the Milky Way. Recently, a study showed that these greasy substances make up between a quarter and one-half of the interstellar carbon of the galaxy. It is 5 times more than the previous estimates. It is a positive indication for finding signs of life in other parts of our galaxy as carbon is the essential building block of life.

Mysterious Bubbles

In 2010, scientists made a massive discovery as they found gigantic, never-before-seen structures. They stretched for 25,000 light-years both above and below the Milky Way. The name given to these structures is ‘Fermi bubbles’, after the telescope which discovered them. These bubbles emit gamma rays and researchers had to struggle a lot to find their source. They finally achieved success last year when a team of researchers suggested that an energetic event 6 million to 9 million years ago initiated these clouds. They explained that a supermassive black hole in the galactic center ate up a huge ball of gas and burped out these humongous bubbles.

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