The Milky Way

- Recall that the Milky Way is an Sb type galaxy
- Describe the appearance of the Milky Way as seen with the naked eye and with binoculars or a small telescope
- Demonstrate an understanding that the observed Milky Way forms the plane of our own Galaxy

The Milky Way is named because it looks like a path in space that looks 'Milky'.

With the naked eye it looks like a furry light irregular column in the sky. We only see this bright long area; we don't make out any stars we could see with binoculars. With binoculars, the Milky Way’s haziness is cleared a little and we can make out small stars.

With a telescope we can see that the Milky Way comprises of countless stars which we can see clearly. Sweeping along the Milky Way this continues; if we move the telescope away a little, we will see less stars than in the Milky Way plane.

What we see of the Milky Way is actually the plane of our own galaxy.

Earth is fairly close by cosmic standards to the other stars we see with the naked eye. Frequently these are in the same region of the galaxy we are in called the Milky Way. The Milky Way is part of a local gang, or group, of 30 or so galaxies called the Local Group. This group is one of many in an even bigger group called a supercluster which is part of the Universe.

Everything we see from Earth – the Sun, the planets and every star – is part of the Milky Way. The Milky Way is just one of billions of galaxies in the Universe which contains everything else we can see, know about or don’t know about!

 

When you have finished in this section, take the quiz to test your knowledge.

 

Animation New Window

Milky Way animation Milky Way

Gallery New Window







 

Links New Window

Axel Mellinger Virtual Reality Milky Way Panorama

Astronomy Picture of the Day Milky Way

University of California, San Diego Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences All about the Milky Way

Curious about Astronomy Milky Way Q & A

Questions New Window

  • What kind of galaxy is the Milky Way?
  • What does it look like…
    - To the naked eye?
    - With binoculars?
    - With a telescope?
  • What part of the galaxy are we looking at from Earth?

Imagine...New Window

Imagine writing a postcard to a friend from the other side of space. It might read something like this.

Neil Armstrong
11 Apollo Road
London
United Kingdom
Earth
Orion Arm
Milky Way
Local Group
Virgo Supercluster
The Universe

Oops, we forgot the Postcode!