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UNIVERSE 104: Milky Way is our galaxy

We live in the Milky Way galaxy. Based on our observations, we have a barred-spiral galaxy.

While we can estimate the size of our galaxy, it's a little harder to determine its age. We know that the Sun is about 5 billion years old. It's a young star. Based on the observations of other stars in the Galaxy, we think that the Milky Way may be about 12-14 billion years old. The age was estimated by measuring the amount of beryllium (Be) in distant stars. The amount of beryllium increases as a star gets older.

Milky Way Structure

Our barred-spiral galaxy is about 100,000 light years across. While the stellar bar in the center of our galaxy had been detected indirectly, recent observations have proved its existence.

The bar extends about one-third the diameter of the galaxy. It was once believed that we had a spiral galaxy, but studies in infrared wavelengths by the Spitzer Space Telescope and other newer telescopes have provided evidence about the stellar bar.

There may be as many as 400 billion stars and systems in the Milky Way. Our closest neighbor is Proxima Centauri. It is about 4.2 light years from Earth. Don't forget that our entire galaxy is 100,000 light years across.

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