In today’s world, people often forget about the wonders of the night sky. Modern conveniences provided by civilization such as electricity and lighting result in light pollution that obscures our views. Pictures like the one below that I took near Champaign, Illinois show the yellow glow of city lights that reduces the contrast with the night sky and makes it difficult to see some of the more visually stunning, but lower contrast sights like the Milky Way. But you can still make out the Milky Way in my photo as a cloudy stripe that runs up from the southern horizon during summer in the Northern hemisphere, or winter if you are in the Southern hemisphere.

Do you think of the Milky Way as a starry band across a dark night sky? Or do you think of it as a great spiral galaxy in space? Both are correct. Both refer to our home galaxy, our local island in the vast ocean of the universe, composed of hundreds of billions of stars, one of which is our sun.

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