Photo: Joe Burn, Milky Way over Ardvreck Castle
Milky Way Viewing Season
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"In less than a hundred years, we have found a new way to think of ourselves. From sitting at the center of the universe, we now find ourselves orbiting an average-sized sun, which is just one of millions of stars in our own Milky Way galaxy." ~ Stephen Hawking
Our Milky Way galaxy gets its most common name from the Greek myth about the goddess Hera who while feeding her infant Heracles, accidentally sprayed her breast milk across the sky. But in other mythologies and languages, the galaxy has been envisioned as a "Silver River" (China), "Backbone of the Night" (tribes in the Kalahari Desert), "The Way of the White Elephant" (Thai) or "Slighe Chlann Uisnich (The Path of the Children of Uisneach" from Celtic mythology (Scottish Gaelic). The namesake Milky Way candy bar created in 1923, based its name and taste from a popular malted milk drink of the day, which was in turn named after the Earth’s galaxy!
The Milky Way
This dance was inspired by figures that reminded the devisor of the spiral arms of our galaxy.
The Milky Way has four main spiral arms: the Norma and Cygnus arm, Sagittarius, Scutum-Crux, and Perseus. Out Sun is located in a minor arm, or spur, named the Orion Spur. The galactic disk itself is about 100,000 light years across, and the bar at the center is estimated to be about 27,000 light years long.
The spiral arms are due to the rotation of the galaxy, or rather, the rotation of matter inside the galactic disk around the center.
The Milky Way contains over 200 billion stars, and enough dust and gas to make billions more. More than half the stars found in the Milky Way are older than our 4.5 billion year old sun.
And for more fascinating facts about our own Milky Way, click the artist's rendition (Illustration Credit: R. Hurt (SSC), JPL-Caltech, NASA) of the Milky Way as a barred spiral galaxy which is a shape more recently determined.