Scientists have just calculated the weight of the Milky Way and it is truly phenomenal in its mass. After analyzing our galaxy, it was determined that the Milky Way shares the same weight as a whopping 1.5 trillion suns stacked up and stretched for a staggering 256,000 light years.
According to The Daily Mail, the discovery of the Milky Way’s mass came about through a joint research project between scientists involved with both the Hubble and Gaia telescopes through the European Space Agency and NASA.
In order to accurately determine the weight of our galaxy, scientists extracted data taken from 46 globular clusters found deep in the center of the Milky Way, with approximately 12 of these clusters coming from the Hubble Space Telescope and the remaining 34 from the Gaia Space Telescope.
As Roeland van der Marel from the Space Telescope Science Institute in the United States explained, “We were lucky to have such a great combination of data. By combining Gaia’s measurements of 34 globular clusters with measurements of 12 more distant clusters from Hubble, we could pin down the Milky Way’s mass in a way that would be impossible without these two space telescopes.”
The research on the Milky Way’s mass has shown that our galaxy is more than above average in terms of its size and weight, as more massive galaxies such as ours have faster-moving clusters that are shuffled quickly along by immense amounts of gravity.
Scientists have finally discovered our galaxy is as heavy as 1.5 TRILLION suns https://t.co/A79jdWEjrw
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) March 9, 2019
Professor Wyn Evans from the University of Cambridge has noted that other measurements of the Milky Way’s mass have previously relied upon the speeds that clusters either recede from or approach Earth. However, this time around scientists also calculated the clusters’ sideways motion as this way their total velocity could finally be measured.
With prior estimates previously suggesting that our galaxy could equal the weight of between 500 billion to three trillion suns, new and more accurate calculations have apparently finally hit upon the right answer. The huge variation in the past estimates of the Milky Way’s weight reportedly came about due to the different techniques that scientists used to calculate our galaxy’s dark matter, which is believed to account for 90 percent of the Milky Way.
As Laura Watkins of the European Space Agency elaborated, “We just can’t detect dark matter directly. That’s what leads to the present uncertainty in the Milky Way’s mass — you can’t measure accurately what you can’t see!”
The new study which has finally and accurately measured the weight of the Milky Way is set to be published soon in The Astrophysical Journal.