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Galaxy-Earth’s Galaxy: the Milky Way

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From the Latin word “Via Lactea” the name of the “Milky Way” has emanated, of which the meaning is “Milky Circle”. Along with other planets, stars and satellites the solar system also belongs within the “Milky way”. The people from Earth can see the “Milky Way” as the disk-shaped configuration. A huge amount of different gases and dust is also rotating amidst the galaxy. “Milky Way” is also known as the “Spiral galaxy” as it can only be seen either from the bottom portion or from the top portion. Somewhere in one of the spiral-shaped arms Sun and its family belongs which is almost 25,000 “light-year” distant from the galaxy’s centre.

The facts about Milky Way

The Earth is settled in the “Milky Way” and the cluster consists of billions of stars who are bound together by the “gravitational force”. They are all swirling together in a swirl-like structure made by planets, stars, comets, asteroids and satellites. From the Earth, people can see a hazy or blurred curve of whitish coloured light and arched through the night sky.  The brightness of the surface of the galaxy is not so much and it can only be visible when the background luminescence is lowered. It is thought that the birth of this galaxy began a little after the happening of the “Big Bang”. The galaxy has increased its mass by merging with other shorter galaxies in space. Various mythological facts are also related and being described in different writings of authors about the “Milky Way”.

The meaning after the name

The name of the galaxy is thought to be collected from the ancient Latin name “Via Lactea” that can be translated to get the meaning the “Way of milk” or the “Milky road”. According to Greek mythology, it has been said that “Goddess Hera” sprayed her breast milk in the sky and from there “Milky Way” has originated.

Other cultural names 

Most of the people in the world know the name of the galaxy as “Milky Way”, however, the other names are given to this galaxy.  Over time different cultures have named this galaxy a unique name and people can get to know these names from different books. The Hindu people call the galaxy “Akash-Ganga”, while the translated version of the Chinese name means the “Silver River”. The name given by the German people is “Milchstrasse” and the name given by the Norwegian people is “Melkeveien”. The meaning of the Indian name “Akash-Ganga” is “Ganges River from heaven”. The Greek people call the “Milky Way” “Galaktikos Kyklos” and the meaning of this name is the “Milky Circle”. The Arabian name of the “Milky Way” is also translated from the Latin form of the galaxy which is “Darb-al-Labbana”. On the other hand, the Japanese people named it “Ama No Gawa” which means the “river of heaven”.

Structure of the “Milky Way”

In general, the pictures of the “Milky Way” are given in a side angular direction in the books and websites. However, when the galaxy is observed from the bottom or top side it appears to be a “Round Swirl” like structure which can be best compared to a disc. The edges of the galaxy are curved and the complete structure is not all over flat. The dust stars and gases belong to the surface of the galaxy and make it a warped shape. On the other hand, it has a core region that is bar-shaped. After observing the “Milky Way” through the “Spitzer Space Telescope” it is confirmed that the “Milky Way” is not at all any ordinary “spiral galaxy” rather it can be coined as “barred spiral galaxy”.

Size of the “Milky Way”

The “Milky Way” is considered to be the second biggest cluster of constellations in the “Local Group” which is the cluster of galaxies. The extent of the “Milky Way” can be assessed or compared to the “Contiguous United States”. The size of the “stellar disk” is about 170,000 to 200,000 light-years in diameter. The maximum mass of the galaxy is thought to be the “Dark matter”. Approximately 100 billion planets are rotating around in the ginormous galaxy. Scientists have come to the conclusion that the “Milky Way” consists of 1.5 trillion solar masses.


From the above discussion, it can be concluded that the “Milky Way” is the large mass of dust, stars, gases and billions of planets and satellites. Different people from different cultures have named the “Milky Way” in a different way. Our solar system and many other constellations like that are gathered in the “Milky Way”. It appears as a disk-like shape and the whitish enlightened arch can be seen in the dark night sky. More than 200 billion stars are scattered in the vast galaxy and the solar system is situated about 25000 light-years away from the centre of the spiral galaxy.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the SSC Examination Preparation.

From which word “Milky Way” name is derived?

Ans. The name “Milky Way” is generated from the Latin name “Via Lactea”.

What does the “Milky Way” look like?

Ans. The “Milky Way” looks like a disc from the top-bottom view and it can actually be called a “barred spiral galaxy”.

What are the different names of “Milky Way”?

Ans. People from different cultures have been given the name “Milky Way” and are called by different expressions. Hindu people call the Milky W...Read full

What mythological story is behind the formation of the “Milky Way”?

Ans. According to the Greek mythological stories, “Goddess Hera” splattered her breast milk to the sky and thus the “Milky Way” originated....Read full