Milky Way’s mass mostly made up of dark matter, new research into the galaxy reveals

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Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, a team of international scientists determined the Milky Way (the galaxy that contains our solar system) weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses.

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The findings are an important breakthrough for astronomers, who had been relying on earlier research dating back several decades that estimated the galaxy’s mass as somewhere between 500 billion to 3 trillion solar masses.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) wrote in a blog post for NASA.

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Not to change the topic here:

Milky Way’s mass mostly made up of dark matter, new research into the galaxy reveals

‘ Supplied: European Space Agency Astronomers used data from the Gaia telescope, which maps stars in the Milky Way. Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, a team of international scientists determined the Milky Way (the galaxy that contains our solar system) weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses.

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“Not knowing the precise mass of the Milky Way presents a problem for a lot of cosmological questions.”

Interestingly, astronomers determined that only a tiny percentage of the galaxy’s mass could be attributed to the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way.

Hubble and Gaia ‘Measure the Milky Way & Its Vast Envelope of Dark Matter’

‘Because of their great distances, globular star clusters are some of the best tracers astronomers have to measure the mass of the vast envelope of dark matter surrounding our galaxy far beyond the spiral disk of stars,’ said Tony Sohn of STScI, who led the Hubble measurements of our galaxy’s mass, using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite.

The Milky Way weighs in at about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun), according to the latest measurements. Only a few percent of this is contributed by the approximately 200 billion stars in the Milky Way and includes a 4-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Most of the rest of the mass is locked up in dark matter, an invisible and mysterious substance that acts like scaffolding throughout the universe and keeps the stars in their galaxies.

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  • Publisher: The Daily Galaxy
  • Date: 2019-03-07T16:29:13+00:00
  • Twitter: @dailygalaxy
  • Citation: Web link (Read More)

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What Does the Milky Way Weigh? Hubble and Gaia Investigate

We live in a gigantic star city. Our Milky Way galaxy contains an estimated 200 billion stars. But that’s just the bare tip of the iceberg. The Milky Way is surrounded by vast amounts of an unknown material called dark matter that is invisible because it doesn’t release any radiation. Astronomers know it exists because, dynamically, the galaxy would fly apart if dark matter didn’t keep a gravitational lid on things.

Still, astronomers would like to have a precise measure of the galaxy’s mass to better understand how the myriad galaxies throughout the universe form and evolve. Other galaxies can range in mass from around a billion solar masses to 30 trillion solar masses. How does our Milky Way compare?

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