What Is the Milky Way?
On a clear night you can see a pale white path of light that stretches across the sky. It is what we call the Milky Way. It is the light from the billions of stars that make up the Milky Way Galaxy—the star system to which our sun belongs.
This is the Galaxy in which we live. If we could view it from far enough away, the Milky Way Galaxy would look like a great spiraling disk with most of the stars in the center and our sun near the edge.
When we look at the Milky Way, we are looking toward the deepest and densest part of the galaxy. We see so many stars, they seem to make a continuous path of light.
The Milky Way is shaped like a huge whirlpool that rotates once every 200 million years. It is made up of at least 100 billion stars, as well as dust and gas. It is so big that light takes 100 000 years to cross from one side to the other.
The centre of the Galaxy is very hard to see because clouds of gas and dust block our view. Scientists think that it contains a super massive black hole that swallows anything passing too close.