You Are Here

-I love this picture.

Many people wonder when shown an image of our own Milky Way galaxy, how someone can take the picture in the first place?! How did they get outside of the galaxy?
I think this picture shows exactly what’s going on when someone takes an image of our galaxy: they’re not taking it from the outside in… they’re taking the picture from the inside of the galaxy itself, looking out!

The Milky Way galaxy is about 100,000 light years across and the Earth is located about 2/3 of the way out from the center. Think of a CD. Now draw a dot on it about 2/3 away from the center, closer to the edge. That’s where we live in relation to the outer edge with the center of the galaxy in the middle where the hole is. This picture is taken looking towards the center of the galaxy, towards the hole. That’s what a galaxy looks like from the inside!

And what’s cool to think about is that there actually IS a hole at the center of our galaxy, just like the CD. There’s a supermassive black hole! You can’t see it in this picture since well, black holes suck up everything including light. But even if you could see a black hole, there’s too much dust and debris, and stars, and planets in the way. What I find sort-of spooky when I look at this picture though is that you’re looking at a feeding giant. There’s a lurking monster hidden in those clouds of dust with unimaginable power. It’s silently devouring entire worlds while we go on about our daily lives. But don’t worry, we’re save out here in the galactic suburbs. But someone a little closer isn’t so lucky… Think about that next time you have a bad day.

3 Comments Comment

  • Elsie on 2015-03-19

    Um, the “You are here” picture is of the Andromeda galaxy, right?

  • Jeffrey on 2015-03-20

    You’re correct, Elsie! The “You are here” picture is of the Andromeda galaxy. The Andromeda galaxy can be thought of as a ‘sister galaxy’ to our own Milky Way galaxy because they’re similar in size and shape. Unfortunately, we have no way of taking a picture (right now) of the Milky Way galaxy from the outside looking in, so I used a picture of a similar galaxy (the Andromeda galaxy) to illustrate where the Sun is located within our own galaxy.

  • David on 2016-03-16

    I very much like the galaxy “you are here” picture (using Andromeda to represent the Milky Way). Is a poster size version available for purchase?

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