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What is the mass of our Milky Way Galaxy?

What is the mass of our Milky Way Galaxy?

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A research team is trying to determine the weight of our galaxy using a mathematical formula. The key to the calculation is stellar velocity.

CAMBRIDGE – How do you determine the mass of something as massive as the Milky Way? Can you add up the weight of stars, gas, interstellar dust and dark matter? A team of researchers presented their research Stady A new way to solve this puzzle.

Scientists use the speed of stars to calculate the mass of the Milky Way

Their approach is based on the observation that the speed of stars changes depending on their distance from the galactic center. This rotational curve can provide information about the Milky Way's mass, which can range between 600 billion and one trillion solar masses. This wide range shows how difficult it is to accurately determine mass.

How much does the Milky Way weigh? © BioPhoto/Imago

The new study focuses on the escape velocity of stars. If the star is fast enough, it can escape the Milky Way's gravity. The minimum speed required for this depends on the mass of the galaxy. If this minimum velocity can be measured, the weight of the galaxy can then be calculated. However, there are very few stars that can escape gravity.

Lighter than expected: The Milky Way weighs 640 billion suns

The research team from the Universities of Cambridge and San Diego analyzed data on stellar velocities obtained from… Gaia space probe It was registered. By measuring the speed and location of these stars, it was possible to determine the escape velocity in different locations and at different distances from the center of the galaxy. Incidentally, a star from outside our galaxy has found its way to the center. From these velocities, the researchers calculated the mass of the Milky Way Galaxy and arrived at a staggering result of 640 billion solar masses.

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This number is at the lower end of previous estimates. If true, this suggests that the Milky Way contains less dark matter than previously thought. Another research team has already found that the center of the galaxy contains less dark matter and is less dense than expected. This was also determined by the movement of the stars. The appearance of the Milky Way also holds surprises for researchers. (no)

The editor wrote this article and then used the AI ​​language model to improve at his own discretion. All information has been carefully checked. Find out more about our AI principles here.