How Much Does Our Milky Way Weigh?

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Are you interested in finding out how much the Milky Way weighs? If you’d like to read this article, you might be interested in learning more about the galaxy’s weight.

Gaia Space Observatory
Gaia Space Observatory

“We can’t detect dark matter directly,” said Laura Watkins of the European Southern Observatory in Garching, Germany. “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 most recent estimates put the mass of our galaxy, the Milky Way, at somewhere about 1.5 trillion solar masses, where one solar mass is equivalent to the mass of our sun. Because dark matter accounts for around 85 % of the mass of the Milky Way, determining this amount is extremely difficult.

“The more massive a galaxy, the faster its clusters move under the pull of its gravity,” study co-author N. Wyn Evans of the University of Cambridge in England said in the same statement.

Hubble Telescope
Hubble Telescope

In recent research, Watkins and her coworkers analyzed the velocities of globular clusters, groups of stars that orbit the well-known spiral of the Milky Way. In addition to being the primary author of the recently published research, Watkins has also had her work accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

“Most previous measurements have found the speed at which a cluster is approaching or receding from Earth — that is, the velocity along our line of sight,” Evans added. “However, we were able also to measure the sideways motion of the clusters, from which the total velocity, and consequently the galactic mass, can be calculated.”

The researchers noted that the team analyzed the movement of 46 globular clusters, 34 of which were seen by Gaia and 12 monitored by Hubble. The most distant of these clusters of stars can be found approximately 129,000 light-years from Earth.

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