One of the most dramatic sights involving the night sky and, regrettably, least observed due to light pollution is
the Milky Way. The Milky Way is literally the section of the universe where our solar system is situated. It is
classified as a type "Sbc" galaxy with a central bulge containing billions of stars and spiral arms extending outward
in a swirling fashion when viewed face-on. In contrast, when viewed edge-on, our galaxy is similar to the Sombrero
Galaxy where the central bulge is characterized with a disc around the central core. The Milky Way is estimated to be
80,000 to 120,000 light-years in diameter with a thickness of approximately 7,000 light-years and to contain
roughly 200 billion stars.
Our sun and planet lie approximately 28,000 light years from the central core of our galaxy (ie. Milky Way) and on one of the minor arms labelled as the "Orion Spur". The primary swirling arms of our galaxy are the Orion, Carena, and Sagittarius arms on one side and the Centaurus, Perseus and Cygnus arms on the other side. When looking at the constellation of Sagittarius, we are looking towards the center and central hub of our galaxy which is characterized with old stars and one black hole. In contrast, away from the central hub we find younger stars and the stellar dust used for the formation of new stars. As indicated by some of the photos below, the "Great Rift" represents dust clouds which extend from Sagittarius to Cygnus.
Our Milky Way represents a galaxy within the Local Group (of Galaxies) numbering 30 galaxies in total, five million light years in diameter and which is moving in unison towards the constellation of Virgo. Other prominent galaxies within the Local Group include Andromeda (150,000 light-years in diameter), Triangulum (40,000 light-years in diameter) and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (30,000 and 20,000 light-years in diameter respectively). The center of the Local Group is believed to lie between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.
Please click on any image of interest for further image and imaging details.
Summer Milky Way