Milky Way galaxy can't be seen in full: how scientists discovered what it presumably looks like
The Milky Way is one of the billions of galaxies in the Universe that scientists have been studying for many years. From the surface of the Earth, it looks like a foggy streak in the sky, but in fact, the Milky Way has countless bright stars.
Space.com has published a study by scientists on this subject. In the mid-1700s, the philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote that the Milky Way is a rotating disk of stars in which our planet is located.
It wasn't until the early 1900s that scientists began to pay enough attention to studying space. Observations of the universe helped to piece together what our galaxy looks like.
Most spiral galaxies have a bulge in the center, with spiral arms branching off from the ends. The arms contain a significant amount of dust and gas and many scattered star clusters. Therefore, scientists have suggested that our galaxy has the same features.
However, it's very difficult to map the Milky Way as it's so big: about 100,000 light-years across at its widest point, with 100 to 400 billion stars, countless planets, black holes, and more inside.
Exploring even small parts requires a huge amount of resources and equipment.
Space dust also hinders research because it dims and scatters light. Even the most powerful telescopes in the world cannot cope with this task.
To map the Milky Way, researchers use many types of observations and combine them with comparisons with other galaxies and theoretical modeling.
Thanks to the globular star clusters that orbit the center of the Milky Way, scientists have determined that this center is about 25,000 light-years away. They also found out that the core is oval in shape, which is why the galaxy is called spiral.
For 11 years, the Gaia telescope has been operating in space, compiling a catalog of the Milky Way stars. Scientists have compiled a list of almost 2 billion stars, but this is only 1% of all cosmic bodies.
Thanks to this information, researchers have determined that the Milky Way has two main spiral arms, and these arms are anchored in the core. However, it is believed that there are many minor spiral arms.
According to scientists, any "map" of the Milky Way that you may come across is mostly an assumption and is likely to change every few years as research methods improve.