Greetings from near and far to my lovely IGGPPC ladies (and gents now?),
You probably have no clue as to who I am so firstly I’ll introduce myself; my name is Sami! AKA @Samiimpossible on twitter, I signed up in the first round of the IGGPPC, I love writing letters, receiving mail, “geeking out” but most of all things… I love SCIENCE. There is so much we don’t know about everything, and that is so very exciting. I want you all to be as excited as I am about science so I will try to make each post as exciting and interesting as I possibly can.
For my first “For Science!” post I would write about something we all know and love, our home. Oh, you mean you have lived here your whole life and don’t really know about where we live? We all seem to know a great deal about a lot of random crap, let’s be honest, like how many times Rainbow Dash winks in S1E4 (for your general information, it is 5); but I found, when I asked some of the people I know, that we don’t seem to know a lot about the beautiful universe in which we live.
YOU ARE MISSING OUT!
So, I have complied a top 10 of stuff you should know about our wondrous home that is the Milky Way. Are you ready for a universally awesome countdown?
1. How old is old?
Good golly; you would think something as wonderfully beautiful as the Milky Way would be a young little diva, in the early stages of pre-teen adolescence; obsessing over all the small things in life, correct? Well, you would be wrong. The Milky Way is about 13.2 billion years old (give or take 800 million years, yes; million); she is a very, very old beauty, almost as old as the Universe itself!
2. Big is beautiful
she is somewhere is the vicinity of 4,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger than Earth.
Inside her, she has around 300 billion stars. That might sound like a hell of a lot and you’re probably sitting there being all “yeah I know, there are a lot of stars in the sky” but what you might not know, is out of that 300 billion, your pretty little eyes can only see around two and a half thousand stars. Which equates to about 0.000003%. She is somewhat of a middleweight in the grand scheme of galaxies; the largest known galaxy for example IC 1101 has over 100 trillion stars. She is constantly losing stars though as well, so the ones that you see are not the same every time you look up (which I hope you do often!) due to supernovae, which helps the Milky Way to lose stars and reproduce them as well.
3. The universe is kind of like your grandpa; really dusty and really gassy.
You might not see it from just a glance, but that beautiful Milky Way is full of dust and gas. To put this dust in perspective, we can only see 6,000 light years into the disk (centre) of our own galaxies in the visible spectrum… our galaxy however is 100,000 light years across! Infrared telescopes, however, like the Spitzer Space Telescope help us map and study the galaxy with infrared light. Spitzer can peer through all the dust to give an amazingly accurate and clear view about what is going on at the heart of Her (a tool I am sure a lot of us could use in our relationships) All this dust and gas make up a whopping 10-15% of the “normal matter” in the galaxy, with the remainder being stars.
4. Even the Grinch had a heart
Yes, our beautiful, refined galaxy has a heart too; a super massive black heart. The centre of our galaxy is called Sagittarius A*, and it houses a black hole with a mass of 40,000 Suns that is 14 million miles across (this equates to about the size of Mercury’s orbit). That however, is just the black hole itself; all of the mass trying to get into the black hole (like so many bees around a particularly sweet flower) forms a disk that has a mass of 4 million Suns, and would fit inside the orbit of Earth.
5. ALL THE NOMS!
Such a beautiful creation, the Milky Way; bright stars, pretty planets, glorious moons to name a few of the wonders… What do we say about things that are so brightly coloured and pretty here on Earth? That they are dangerous? Well, our Milky Way is not exception to that rule. She is, in fact, a cannibal. That’s right; she eats other galaxies. She was not always as she is now, she got there by eating up the competition, she is still doing it today like the Dom she is – The Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is the closest galaxy to her and its stars are currently being dragged into the clutches of Milky Way’s disk.
6. That is all kinds of majestic.
No description necessary; see below:
For some beautiful photos of our wonderful home, go here!
7. Location, location, location
The Milky Way is not alone in space; we are part of a small group of near by galaxies that go by the ridiculously shocking name (prepare yourself, its really outstandingly inventive) the Local Group. Yes. That’s right. The Local Group. Ingenious, no? The Local Group is somewhat small and relatively cozy; nice neighbors, clean front lawns and pretty white picket fences. The big city that is the Virgo Cluster; a collection of about 200 galaxies, many of which are as large or larger than the Milky Way.
8. Andromeda; no not the show.
Andromeda is visible to the naked eye on a clear, dark moonless night (check your local moon calendar listings). It’s faint, but REALLY BIG; in the night sky it’s about eight times the apparent size of the Moon in the sky. Doesn’t seem so big? Haha, well, give it about 2 billion years; you will have a much better view. The Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way are fast running towards each other like a dog towards your ice cream wielding 2 year old; remember how I said before that big galaxies like Milky nom up the smaller ones? Well; when you get two equally large galaxies smacking into each other, you get the end of a Disney film; fireworks. Stars by themselves cannot physically collide, they are in fact too small; however, the gas clouds can, and when they do they form stars. So when this happens, you get a burst of star formation, lighting up both galaxies. It will look something like this.
9. You thought Harry Potter was the only one with an invisibility cloak?
In regards to the motion of the stars in our galaxy, you can apply some math and physics (YAY!) and determine how much mass the galaxy has (basically, more mass means more gravity, which means the stars will move faster). This also means you can count how many stars there are and figure out their mass. HOWEVER; stars make up only 10% of the mass in the galaxy; so what is the other 90%?
It is a thing called Dark Matter and although it DOES have mass, it DOES NOT glow. Science does not yet know what it actually is, many roads have been adventured along and exhausted, but what we DO know is it IS there and it DOES exist. Milky seemingly has a really good invisibility cloak; however there are a bunch of awesome scientists researching this, and sooner rather than later they will uncover what its magic.
10. DUNG BEETLES!
Yes. Dung beetles. These amazing beetles use the Milky Way as a navigating system to find their way around. Click here to read/see what they are capable of!
So that is pretty much it for this months “For Science” post. If you have any questions about anything in this post or want to talk about any of the stuff further, (or literally talk about anything science or awesome related) please don’t hesitate to contact me, either on here or on twitter @Samiimpossible. I will leave you with this amazing clip from the ISS (International Space Station).
Remember to look up
This post was originally written by Samantha Levett, queen of Violet Crumbles.