The milky way can feel daunting and intimidating to anyone who is unfamiliar with what exactly it is, and how it came to be.
However, here we are going to break down what exactly the Milky Way is – and all of the key information that you need to know about it.
THAT Milky Way Snapshot
So, the whole reason behind the titling of this piece is to pay homage to the ‘baby picture’ that emerged of the Milky Way galaxy.
This very picture revealed its humble origins before it ate another smaller galaxy… Hence the cannibal reference.
That’s right; we can give an estimate of about 10 billion years where a collision between two galaxies resulted in one of the galaxies being absorbed by the other.
The other galaxy happened to be more than three times its size – and this is the Milky Way as we know it today.
What Exactly Is The Milky Way?
You might view the Milky Way as being a vast, starry expanse that is only visible when the sky is darker.
Alternatively, you might see the Milky Way as being a huge spiral-like galaxy within space… You might be surprised to know that both of these assumptions would be correct.
These examples will refer to our very own home galaxy, in fact, it is true that our very own island is made up of billions of stars. One of these stars is actually our sun.
Can We See The Milky Way?
Here’s the thing, it was, of course, a possibility to see the night sky in all its glory. You would be able to see all the stars in the sky.
However, we now have the ominent glow of street lights to contend with, meaning that due to the light pollution, we can’t view the night sky in its best form.
Before the modern times of light pollution, humans would be able to observe the night sky in its best form, and you would be able to see a lot of bright stars in the sky.
Why Is The Milky Way Called The Milky Way?
So, there is a range of different myths and legends that provide supporting evidence for the Milky Way gaining its name. It is true that these myths and legends have derived from a lot of different cultures.
For example, the ancient Armenians saw the Milky Way as a creation by the god Vahagn – who is the god of fire, thunder, and war.
This god was part of a trio of gods, and Vahagn was likened to Heracles by the ancient Greeks.
Another example that is important to mention is that of eastern Asia, and the Milky Way was known as the ‘Silvery River of Heaven.’
In addition to this, western culture has been dominated by the legends and also the myths of the ancient Greeks and then the Romans, so these were the myths and legends that influenced the rest of us.
This is true because both the Greeks and the Romans saw this starry trail as a ‘river of milk.’
Greek mythology references how this milk came from the breast of the goddess Hera, who was the wife and sister of Zeus.
She was an especially jealous wife, and she would be known for fighting with Zeus due to his affairs. Hera was the defender and the protector of women, and she would look upon marriages and births.
However, the Romans said that the starry trail was as light as the milk from their goddess Ops. She was the goddess of the earth, and she was a reminder of fertility.
Ops was known for being a goddess of wealth and abundance because her name translates to meaning ‘plenty’.
It is for all of these reasons that we call the Milky Way by this very name.
What Does The Milky Way Look Like?
Here’s the thing, when you are situated right underneath a dark sky that is nowhere near light pollution, then you might be able to observe the Milky Way in its true form.
You will notice the Milky Way by its distinctive appearance because it will look cloud-like amongst all the stars in the sky.
However, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly the cloud amongst the stars is. In order to really be able to observe the Milky Way in its best form, then you will need to use a telescope.
It is true that without the telescope, no human would even know the essence of the Milky Way.
If you point any kind of telescope along the length of the Milky Way, then you will be able to behold a visually impressive sight.
In fact, what seems to be a cloud to the naked eye becomes millions of stars – and their distance, along with their close proximity to each other, does not allow us to view them just with our vision.
Similarly to this, a raincloud will appear as a solid form in the sky – but it is actually made up of lots of water droplets.
The stars of the Milky Way join together in a single band of light, but with the help of a telescope, we are able to see the Milky Way in all its glory.
The Milky Way Is The Entire Galaxy We Live In
So, when it comes to actually thinking about what the Milky Way is, it should be explained through the lens of an astronomer.
This allows us to gain a better understanding of what the Milky Way really is.
To an astronomer, the Milky Way is the whole galaxy that we reside in. This goes further than just being the part of the galaxy that we see in the sky up above us. The Milky Way is more than just being a river of light.
Why Does Our Galaxy Have To Have A Name?
Well, this is a pretty common question because many other galaxies will be designated by catalog numbers rather than having names.
The best reference that we have of this is the New General Catalog, and this is a catalog that just assigns a sequel of numbers to each galaxy.
However, this can be confusing to process because there is more than just one galaxy catalog so different galaxies can be given different number sequences in different catalogs.
The galaxies that are given actual names as opposed to just being given number sequences are due to their appearance in the sky. That’s right. When it comes to galaxies, they really are judged on their appearance…
The astronomers of the 17th and 18th centuries named some galaxies based on their appearances; an example of this is the Pinwheel – we bet you can guess what this particular galaxy looks like!
It is true that our own galaxy does not actually appear in any index of galaxies – although there was a requirement for a name to refer to it as.
This is why we have the Milky Way as the name of our galaxy. Or, astronomers will just refer to it as Galaxy as opposed to the other galaxies which get referred to with a lower-case letter.
The Milky Way is a pretty impressive and a pretty vast expanse, and there is a lot more to it than meets the naked eye.
Without the help of telescopes, we are unable to appreciate the Milky Way fully – but with its fascinating mythology and legends, there really is more to this galaxy than we really realize.
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