Scientists Measure The Entire Mass Of Milky Way

Posted: Jun 1 2016, 9:55am CDT | by , Updated: Jun 1 2016, 11:02pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Measure the Entire Mass of Milky Way
Credit: NASA

Research estimates that our galaxy Milky Way contains the same amount of mass as 700 billion suns.

What is the entire mass of our galaxy Milky Way? This may be a complicated question but scientists are attempting to answer it as accurately as they possibly can.

Gwendolyn Eadie from McMaster University and his academic supervisor William Harris have applied a new technique to determine the mass of Milky Way and revealed that our galaxy is 700 billion times more massive than the Sun. That’s considerably lighter than previous estimates, which suggested that Milky Way’s mass ranges somewhere from 100 billion to 1.6 trillion times that of our own Sun. 

Measuring the mass of a galaxy is quite challenging because galaxies include stars, planets, moons, dust, gases and so many other materials and objects which are not fully understood or even directly observed. One of the complex phenomena is dark matter - an invisible material that makes up most of the universe. The only way we can detect the presence of dark matter is through its gravitational effects exerted on visible objects.

To measure our galaxy's dark matter, Eadie used the positions and velocities of 89 globular star clusters that are orbiting around the Milky Way. Dark matter pulls and pushes globular clusters in a predictable way as the move around the galaxies, which makes them easier to track over time than individual stars. The new thing about this research is the application of a new novel technique that measures the proper motions of not only fully known globular clusters but also of those that are only partially known.

While this is not the first research that has tried to estimate the mass of  our galaxy Milky Way but it certainly yielded the most accurate estimations to date by combining a wide variety of data sources. The findings will also help understand the evolution of galaxies which is often tied to the overall mass of the galaxy.

“People who study the evolution of galaxies look at how the mass relates to its evolution,” Eadie told National Geographic. “If we have a better handle on what the mass of Milky Way is, we can understand how it and other galaxies form and evolve.” 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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