Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | December 14, 2016

The Milky Way

(4 Minute Read)

milkywaybar

Milky Way is the name of a very yummy candy bar. It is chocolate-malt nougat topped with caramel and smothered in milk chocolate. It’s very difficult to say “No, thank you” when offered a Milky Way.

The Milky Way candy bar was created in 1923 and named after a well-known milkshake which was itself named after the subject of this article.

Milky Way is also the name of the galaxy in which we live. A galaxy is a gravitationally-bound island of stars orbiting the stars’ center of mass. Our galaxy’s name comes from its hazy, milky glow as it arcs across the night sky. The individual stars that contribute to the milky glow cannot be distinguished with the naked eye.

As far as we know, Galileo was the first post-Flood astronomer to resolve the milky glow of the Milky Way galaxy into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. As late as 1920 astronomers generally thought the Milky Way contained all the stars of the universe.

Today astronomers think the Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy that contains 100–400 billion (100,000,000,000-400,000,000,000) stars and is 100,000–180,000 light-years across. Earth is about 27,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s galactic center, on the inner edge of the spiral arm called the Orion Arm.

To get a feel for how big the Milky Way is, imagine a scale model of the solar system that is one foot in diameter. The sun would be smaller than a period with the earth an eighth of an inch away. The nearest star would be about 2/3 of a mile away. The Milky Way would be larger than the Pacific Ocean!

Galaxies

Today we know the Milky Way is only one of many galaxies of stars, some smaller, others much bigger. Galaxies range in size from dwarf galaxies with “only” a few billion (2-3,000,000,000) stars to giant galaxies with one hundred trillion (100,000,000,000,000) stars.

The largest known galaxy in the universe is the yellow-red elliptical galaxy IC 1101. It lies one billion light-years away and is six million light-years across. It contains 100 trillion stars. Comparing IC 1101 with the Milky Way, IC 1101 is 60 times as large with 1,000 times as many stars.

Hold a grain of sand up to the night sky.
The part of the sky blocked out by that
grain of sand has over 10,000 galaxies.

If there are many galaxies in the night sky, how many is many? If you hold up a grain of sand to the sky, the part of the sky blocked out by the grain of sand has over 10,000 galaxies. Recent results from October 2016 based on observations with the Hubble space telescope show at least two trillion (2,000,000,000) galaxies in the observable universe. The Creator God alone knows how many are in the unobservable universe.

Who made all these stars? The Genesis account of Creation says of God, “He made the stars also” on Creation Day Four (Genesis 1:16).
How many stars did God make? A 2010 estimate reported
300 sextillion = 3 × 1023 = 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe. The Creator God alone knows how many are in the unobservable universe.

Andromeda Galaxy

Andromeda Galaxy
A spiral galaxy with a trillion stars
about 2.5 million light-years away.

Galaxies are gravitationally associated in groups, clusters, and superclusters. Superclusters lie in enormous sheets separated by huge vast voids.

The Milky Way is part of a group or cluster of at least 54 galaxies called the Local Group. The Milky Way is the second-largest galaxy in the Local Group after the Andromeda Galaxy.

In the Local Group, the Milky Way has at least 15 satellite galaxies that orbit it. Three of these satellite galaxies are the Large Magellanic Cloud, the Small Magellanic Cloud, and the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest major galaxy to the Milky Way, lying 2,500,000 light-years from Earth. It has more than twice as many stars as the Milky Way and is more than 220,000 LY in diameter. Observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2006 showed Andromeda has one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) stars.

Spiral Galaxies

Andromeda is a spiral galaxy. A spiral galaxy is disk-shaped with a central bulge. Spiral arms extend from the central bulge to the outer edge. The arms are regions that appear to have greater numbers of stars.

Astronomers think the Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, but we don’t know for sure because we are on the inside looking out. We can’t see the structure of the Milky Way from outside like we can with Andromeda.

Spiral galaxies are a thorn in the side of evolutionary astronomers. As spiral galaxies rotate, the inner regions rotate much faster than the outer regions. Thus the spiral becomes tighter and tighter. After a few hundred million years the spiral structure would be gone. But supposedly, galaxies are billions and billions of years old! Spiral galaxies give the lie to this claim. They cannot possibly be billions of years old. But they could be 6,000 years old, as the Bible reports.

20020520-StarWars

Superclusters of Galaxies

The Milky Way is part of the Virgo Supercluster, also called the Local Supercluster. This supercluster contains the Virgo Cluster and the Local Group along with at least 100 other galaxy clusters. The Virgo Supercluster is one of about 10 million galaxy superclusters in the observable universe.

The Virgo Supercluster is a lobe of a cluster of galaxy superclusters named Laniakea. This Hawaiian name means “immense heaven” from lani for “heaven” and akea for “immeasurable”.

The Laniakea Supercluster contains 300 to 500 galaxy clusters. It may include many more in the region obscured by the Milky Way. The Laniakea Supercluster comprises over 100,000 galaxies.

Neighboring galaxy superclusters near Laniakea include the Shapley Supercluster, Hercules Supercluster, and Coma Supercluster. The Great Wall is an immense galaxy superstructure that contains the superclusters Hercules, Coma and Leo. Laniakea and the Great Wall are the largest known structures in the universe. But I am confident larger structures and more organization will someday be discovered. I will not be surprised to learn that either Laniakea or the Great Wall is simply a filament of a far larger structure.

Sombrero Galaxy

Sombrero Galaxy
Sombrero’s bulging glow of light comes from 800 Billion stars. Its unusually large bulge
and dust ring suggest its name. Sombrero is 31 million light-years away in the
constellation Virgo and is 50,000 light-years across. The dots of light are not stars but thousands of other galaxies, including a pair of twin galaxies at the bottom at 7 o’clock.

Who Did It?

No matter how far out into the universe man peers, he sees order and structures of increasing complexity and magnitude. From where did it all come? Who designed it all? Who made this huge expanse of space in which the galaxies swim? Who made all the stars? Who organized them into so many galaxies? Who arranged the clusters, superclusters, sheets, and walls of galaxies?

Who hung the Milky Way on nothing in space? Who placed numerous galaxies in orbit around the Milky Way?

To say it all “just happened” is to wimp out on answering these questions.

The answer is that Yahweh, the Almighty Creator God of the Bible, made the universe and all that we see in it.

The vast immeasurable extent of the universe, the incomprehensibly enormous energy of innumerable stars … these far surpass the human mind’s ability to comprehend them. They speak of the glory, majesty, and power of their Creator.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
(Psalm 8:1,3-4)

The dependable regularity of the Big Dipper, the grandeur of Orion, the sparkling beauty of the Pleiades, the galaxies orbiting the Milky Way, and the innumerable stars of the Milky Way … all these point to a Maker, to One who made heaven and earth (Isaiah 37:16).

The majesty of the stars alone should compel men to seek the Creator and Savior before it is too late and judgment comes. It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31 NASB)

Questions to Ponder
  1. What aspect of God’s creative work in making the stars, galaxies, and space is most awe-inspiring to you?
  2. What concrete step can help remind you to keep giving our awesome Creator worship and praise?
  3. Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God. (Psalm 19:1 KJV)
Soli Deo Gloria.

Read the prequels on astronomy:
He Made the Stars Also
Naming the Stars
Big Dipper — Clock in the Sky
The Hunter and Seven Sisters
Orion & the Pleiades Speak Truth

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday December 14, 2016 A.D.

Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name. Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26 NASB)

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