The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Number of Stars in the Milky Way

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Vidali, Gianfranco, Marco Falcioni & Eric Gregory. Galaxies. SETI Module Astronomy Tutorial Page. Syracuse University. "Our own Milky Way, a typical giant spiral galaxy, includes at least 100 billion stars in its diameter." 100 billion
Encyclopedia Britannica. Astronomy. 2000. "There are about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy" 100 billion
Eddington, A. S. The Interior of a Star. 1926. "The Sun belongs to a system containing some 3,000 million stars." 3 billion
Boorstein, Daniel J. Discovery of the World. New York: Random House, 1983: 320. "… the Galaxy is nothing else but a mass of innumerable stars planted together in clusters." innumerable
Butterworth, Paul. Stars in Our Galaxy. Ask a High-Energy Astronomer. 1998. "We can only see a few thousand stars at most with our unaided eyes. These are a mixture of stars which are nearby, and bright stars which are further away; but they are only a tiny fraction of the 100,000,000,000 stars in our own galaxy." 100 billion

The night sky has always been a source of endless wonder and speculation. It is the origin of innumerable number of myths, legends and other stories. Yet while the number of ideas and answers to the mystery of the sky is unfathomable, so is the number of stars out there.

When looking up at a night sky, only a small amount of stars can been seen by the naked eye. In fact it is an amount so small that it is a comparable to a handful of sand on the beach. While the exact number can't be known just yet, many estimates have been given.

Stars are giant spheres of gas, mainly hydrogen and helium. Most of them, with the exception of the Sun, are trillions of miles away. Because they are so far, they seem to us like little specks of light, but in actuality they can be millions of miles wide in diameter. Stars are located in galaxies, but a galaxy contains more than just stars. Clouds of dust and gas, called nebulae, are where stars are born.

In our galaxy alone, the Milky Way, there is a predicted 3 billion to 100 billion stars. It is impossible at this point to know which the true value is; it may even be larger than thought. So while the stories and myths live on about the night sky, the exact number of stars is still not known, as space is truly the final frontier.

Marissa Wager -- 2000

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