Adrian Dening's Stars Over Somerset

    Monday 8th to Sunday 14th July 2024

    I'm going to suggest revisiting the "Summer Triangle" which is the imaginary shape drawn between the stars Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus, Vega in Lyra and Altair in Aquila. If you venture outside around 11pm next week, the trio of stars will be located quite high in the sky towards the east.

    From a dark location, you will notice what looks like dim cloud running through the triangle. It isn't cloud at all, rather the faint light from the multitude of stars in the middle of our Milky Way galaxy.

    The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy with a concentration of (billions of) stars in the centre and arms spiralling outwards containing millions more. If you could travel far enough into space and look back, it would resemble a spinning Catherine Wheel, albeit moving an awful lot slower than a firework!

    Our own Sun is one insignificant star in one of the spirals. The Milky Way is huge, measuring about 100,000 light years across, so it would take you that long to journey from one side to the other IF your spaceship travelled at the speed of light!

    Our Solar System and everything you see in the night sky apart from other galaxies are all within our bit of the Milky Way. If you look inwards towards the centre then you see that faint cloud in the background. If you look outwards, the next thing you see is our neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy M31, a whopping 2.5 million light years away. In between!
    Screenshots courtesy of Stellarium
    Copyright Adrian Dening and Radio Ninesprings 2024

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      Low-level cloud

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      Low-level cloud

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