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How did the milky way get its name?
- Owen Ly (age 16)
The Milky Way is the name of the galaxy that we live in. It's actually a huge collection of a LOT of different stars (including our sun) all together. The Milky Way was given its name by some of the first astronomers who used to look up at the stars at night. If you go outside at night and look towards the center of our galaxy, the sky actually looks milky. This is because the center of the galaxy has so many stars so close together that you can't tell them all apart... all you can make out is a milky-looking smear of stars - hence the name 'Milky Way.'
This is a cool picture that I found on the web showing this. Of course, this isn't a real photograph since it's hard to take a picture of the galaxy that we're inside of. It's actually a picture that scientists and artists made by imagining what the Milky Way would look like from the outside if we could see it:
(published on 10/22/2007)
Follow-Up #1: interactive sky photo
I've found a better one. It is made of more than 33 000 different real photographs of the night sky taken throuhout North America. You can also zoom. Can you find Andromeda's Galaxy? http://media.skysurvey.org/openzoom.html
(published on 05/13/11)
Follow-up on this answer.