The Milky Way

November 26, 2019

Can we see the Milky Way from Tenerife?

The Milky way is where our solar system lives.  The Milky way from Tenerife is best viewed in the summer months when you are talking about the galactic core.  However, it is visible all year in the fact that all the stars we can see are in the Milky way!

From Earth we see it as a hazy band of light formed of stars that cannot be distinguished as individual stars by the naked eye.  The term Milky way is a translation from the Latin Via Lactea which comes from the Greeks “Milky Circle”.  From Earth, the Milky way appears as a band as it is viewed from within.  It wasn´t until 1610 that the band was first viewed as individual stars by Galileo using his telescope.  Until the early 1920´s, most astronomers thought that the Milky way contained all the stars of the Universe.  It was Edwin Hubble that discovered that the Milky way was just one of many galaxies.

Our solar system lies about two thirds of the way out on one of the spiral arms called the Orion Spur.  The Milky way is a barred spiral galaxy and I have added some pictures to show you our galaxies shape.  We have between 200 – 400 billion stars in our galaxy and estimated at more than a Billion Planets.  We are the second largest galaxy in our local group at around 120,000 light years in diameter and on average 1,000 light years thick.   Our Solar System is located at a radius of about 26,000 light-years from the Galactic Center.  The stars in the innermost 10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars that radiate from the bulge. The galactic center is an intense radio source known as Sagittarius A*, assumed to be a super massive black hole.

Stars and gases at a wide range of distances from the Galactic Center orbit at approximately 220 kilometers per second. The constant rotation speed contradicts the laws of Keplerian dynamics and suggests that much (about 90%) of the mass of the Milky Way is invisible to telescopes, neither emitting nor absorbing electromagnetic radiation. This conjectural mass has been termed “dark matter”. 

Our sun and solar system have a rotational period of about 240 million years as we go around the Milky way.  The Milky way is moving at a velocity of approximately 600 km per second with respect to extra galactic frames of reference. The oldest stars in the Milky Way are nearly as old as the Universe itself and thus probably formed shortly after the Dark Ages of the Big Bang.

The Milky Way has several satellite galaxies and is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is itself a component of the Laniakea Super cluster.

The first time I saw the Galactic core I was mesmerized.  There is no way I can describe it and even pictures do not do it justice.  It is simply something you have to see for yourselves.  So why not see it with us in Tenerife?

Don´t miss out on our special offer, our Star Safari is now on Special offer until 1st January so book now for a great Xmas present or just treat yourself to see one of the best Night Skies in the World.

If you have any questions, then please leave a comment or get in touch via email.

Until Next time this Kieran signing off.

Photo Credit goes to Ernie Holding, Craig Wagstaff and Lapsus Temporis.

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