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By the way, the image above is not a photograph, it’s a drawing– there’s no way to get outside the galaxy and take a picture like this looking back. Click the picture to embiggen and get more details (which is true for all the pictures in this post). At the very center of the Galaxy, right at its very core, lies a monster: a supermassive black hole.
We know it’s there due to the effect of its gravity.
Sure, you know it’s a spiral, and it’s 100,000 light years across. So let’s see if these really are Ten Things You Don’t Know About the Milky Way Galaxy. You might know that the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, perhaps the most beautiful galaxy type.It’s thought now that a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy forms along with the galaxy itself, and in facts winds blown outward as material falls in affects the formation of stars in the galaxy. If another, smaller galaxy passes too close by, the bigger galaxy can rip it to shreds and ingest its stars and gas. Eventually they’ll merge completely with us, and we’ll be a slightly larger galaxy. We’re the heaviest guy on the block, and the Andromeda galaxy is maybe a bit less massive, though it’s actually spread out more.So black holes may be dangerous, but it’s entirely possible the Sun’s eventual birth — and the Earth’s along with it — may have been lent a hand by the four million solar mass killer so far away. Ironically though, the galaxies add their mass to ours, making it more likely we’ll feed again. The Triangulum galaxy is also a spiral, but not terribly big, and there are other assorted galaxies dotted here and there in the Group. The Local Group is small and cozy, and everyone makes sure their lawns are mowed and houses painted nicely.All together, there are something like three dozen galaxies in the Local Group, with most being dinky dwarf galaxies that are incredibly faint and difficult to detect. That’s because if you take the long view, we live in the suburbs.
The big city in this picture is the Virgo Cluster, a huge collection of about 2000 galaxies, many of which are as large or larger than the Milky Way.
It’s the nearest big cluster; the center of it is about 60 million light years away.