Celestial Object of the Month: The Milky Way
Normally seen as a hazy band of light under dark skies, the Milky Way galaxy is the home for our planet, sun and solar system as well as hundreds of billions of other stars and planets. About three-fourths of the way out from the center is the location of our solar system, far from the intense radiation and dense star clouds of the central core.
During the summer it can be seen in the evening sky far from city lights, with the brightest part well above the southern horizon this month. This bright mass is created by the vast star clouds toward the center of the galaxy and is home to a massive black hole possibly four million times the mass of our sun.
Our galaxy is around one hundred thousand light-years across, fifty thousand light-years thick and classified as a barred spiral among galaxy types.
The reddish color seen in the photograph is due to enormous clouds of hydrogen gas and represents the birthplaces of stars. The large mass seen of the lower right is the core of the Milky Way. On the top, just left of center is a bluish fork of stars that are part of the giant Cygnus arm of the galaxy. Normally seen visually as a hazy band of light, long exposure photography will reveal the Milky Way in all its splendor.