THE MILKY WAY

astronomer-gazing-at-the-milky-wayThe Milky Way is visible as a faint pearly band of light arching across the night sky and is created by the combined glow of stars scattered along the plane of our Galaxy’s disc as seen from Earth. Deriving its name from its ‘milky’ appearance, it is easily visible to the unaided eye under clear, dark skies and any form of optical aid will show that it is made up of many thousands of individual stars producing the effect which is beautifully captured in this image.

We live in one of the arms of a large spiral galaxy we call the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun and its planets (including Earth) being located around half way out from the centre. The Milky Way is actually our view of the Galaxy looking along the main galactic plane. The pearly glow we see is the combined light from many different stars and is visible as a continuous band of light stretching around the celestial sphere.

Although the vast majority of these stars are too faint to be observed without optical aid, their combined light produces the glow that can be seen crossing the sky. The dark patches superimposed against the backdrop of the Milky Way, and which are well captured in this stunning image, are areas where light from distant stars is blocked by regions of dust which are found scattered throughout interstellar space.

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