The Milky Way's name stems from the Greeks, who referred to the galaxy as galaxias kyklos, or milky circle. The Romans, who called it via lactea, or "the road of milk," altered the term from its original Greek origins.Know More
The word origins of the Milky Way's name are clear, but the stories surrounding it are a bit murky. One common belief is that the name stems from ancient Greek mythology. In this case, the mythological explanation for the name is that a beautiful mortal named Alcmene tricked a goddess named Hera into suckling baby Heracles, the son of her husband, Zeus. When Hera discovered who the baby was, she promptly tore him away from her breast, spurting her milk across the sky in the process.
Yet another legend about the creation of the Milky Way stems from the actions of Phaethon, the son of Helios, the sun god. Phaeton reportedly used his father's sun chariot to set the heavens on fire, resulting in the Milky Way.
Despite its early origins, it wasn't until the 18th century that people realized that the Milky Way is a galaxy of stars. Scientists discovered that the Milky Way is one of millions of galaxies around the universe in the 19th and 20th centuries.Learn more about Universe
Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way has about 100 billion stars. However, this number is a very rough estimate based on mathematical formula, and advances in technology allow more accurate assessments.Full Answer >
The Milky Way is a barred-spiral galaxy that is approximately 100,000 light years across, according to Space.com. This means an object traveling at the speed of light, which is the theoretical maximum speed for any object, would take a full 100,000 years to traverse the entire Milky Way galaxy.Full Answer >
The Milky Way has been observed for millennia, but the discovery that it was composed of stars and was our home galaxy emerged gradually. From ancient times through to the modern era, humankind has been adding to its understanding of the Milky Way.Full Answer >
The Milky Way has an enormous width of about 100,000 light years. The Milky Way is the most common type of galaxy in the universe—a spiral galaxy.Full Answer >