Galactic astronomy is the study of the Milky Way galaxy and all its contents. This is in contrast to extragalactic astronomy, the study of everything outside our galaxy, including all other galaxies. Galactic astronomy should not be confused with galaxy formation and evolution, the general study of galaxies, their formation, components, dynamics and the range of forms they take; the Milky Way galaxy, where the Solar System belongs, is in many ways the best studied galaxy, although important parts of it are obscured from view in visible wavelengths by regions of cosmic dust. The development of radio astronomy, infrared astronomy and submillimetre astronomy in the 20th Century allowed the gas and dust of the Milky Way to be mapped for the first time. A standard set of subcategories is used by astronomical journals to split up the subject of Galactic Astronomy: abundances – the study of the location of elements heavier than helium bulge – the study of the bulge around the center of the Milky Way center – the study of the central region of the Milky Way disk – the study of the Milky Way disk evolution – the evolution of the Milky Way formation – the formation of the Milky Way fundamental parameters – the fundamental parameters of the Milky Way globular cluster – globular clusters within the Milky Way halo – the large halo around the Milky Way kinematics and dynamics – the motions of stars and clusters nucleus – the region around the black hole at the center of the Milky Way open clusters and associations – open clusters and associations of stars solar neighbourhood – nearby stars stellar content – numbers and types of stars in the Milky Way structure – the structure Star clusters Globular clusters Open clusters Interplanetary space - Interplanetary medium - interplanetary dust Interstellar space - Interstellar medium - interstellar dust Intergalactic space - Intergalactic medium - Intergalactic dust Galaxy Milky Way Extragalactic astronomy Mapping the hydrogen gas in the Milky Way Mapping the dust in the centre of the Milky Way
Gravity, or gravitation, is a natural phenomenon by which all things with mass or energy—including planets, stars and light—are brought toward one another. On Earth, gravity gives weight to physical objects, the Moon's gravity causes the ocean tides; the gravitational attraction of the original gaseous matter present in the Universe caused it to begin coalescing, forming stars – and for the stars to group together into galaxies – so gravity is responsible for many of the large-scale structures in the Universe. Gravity has an infinite range, although its effects become weaker on farther objects. Gravity is most described by the general theory of relativity which describes gravity not as a force, but as a consequence of the curvature of spacetime caused by the uneven distribution of mass; the most extreme example of this curvature of spacetime is a black hole, from which nothing—not light—can escape once past the black hole's event horizon. However, for most applications, gravity is well approximated by Newton's law of universal gravitation, which describes gravity as a force which causes any two bodies to be attracted to each other, with the force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
Gravity is the weakest of the four fundamental forces of physics 1038 times weaker than the strong force, 1036 times weaker than the electromagnetic force and 1029 times weaker than the weak force. As a consequence, it has no significant influence at the level of subatomic particles. In contrast, it is the dominant force at the macroscopic scale, is the cause of the formation and trajectory of astronomical bodies. For example, gravity causes the Earth and the other planets to orbit the Sun, it causes the Moon to orbit the Earth, causes the formation of tides, the formation and evolution of the Solar System and galaxies; the earliest instance of gravity in the Universe in the form of quantum gravity, supergravity or a gravitational singularity, along with ordinary space and time, developed during the Planck epoch from a primeval state, such as a false vacuum, quantum vacuum or virtual particle, in a unknown manner. Attempts to develop a theory of gravity consistent with quantum mechanics, a quantum gravity theory, which would allow gravity to be united in a common mathematical framework with the other three forces of physics, are a current area of research.
Archimedes discovered the center of gravity of a triangle. He postulated that if the centers of gravity of two equal weights wasn't the same, it would be located in the middle of the line that joins them; the Roman architect and engineer Vitruvius in De Architectura postulated that gravity of an object didn't depend on weight but its "nature". Aryabhata first identified the force to explain why objects are not thrown out when the earth rotates. Brahmagupta described gravity as an attractive force and used the term "gruhtvaakarshan" for gravity. Modern work on gravitational theory began with the work of Galileo Galilei in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In his famous experiment dropping balls from the Tower of Pisa, with careful measurements of balls rolling down inclines, Galileo showed that gravitational acceleration is the same for all objects; this was a major departure from Aristotle's belief that heavier objects have a higher gravitational acceleration. Galileo postulated air resistance as the reason that objects with less mass fall more in an atmosphere.
Galileo's work set the stage for the formulation of Newton's theory of gravity. In 1687, English mathematician Sir Isaac Newton published Principia, which hypothesizes the inverse-square law of universal gravitation. In his own words, "I deduced that the forces which keep the planets in their orbs must reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centers about which they revolve: and thereby compared the force requisite to keep the Moon in her Orb with the force of gravity at the surface of the Earth; the equation is the following: F = G m 1 m 2 r 2 Where F is the force, m1 and m2 are the masses of the objects interacting, r is the distance between the centers of the masses and G is the gravitational constant. Newton's theory enjoyed its greatest success when it was used to predict the existence of Neptune based on motions of Uranus that could not be accounted for by the actions of the other planets. Calculations by both John Couch Adams and Urbain Le Verrier predicted the general position of the planet, Le Verrier's calculations are what led Johann Gottfried Galle to the discovery of Neptune.
A discrepancy in Mercury's orbit pointed out flaws in Newton's theory. By the end of the 19th century, it was known that its orbit showed slight perturbations that could not be accounted for under Newton's theory, but all searches for another perturbing body had been fruitless; the issue was resolved in 1915 by Albert Einstein's new theory of general relativity, which accounted for the small discrepancy in Mercury's orbit. This discrepancy was the advance in the perihelion of Mercury of 42.98 arcseconds per century. Although Newton's theory has been superseded by Einstein's general relativity, most modern non-relativistic gravitational calculations are still made using Newton
A supernova is an event that occurs upon the death of certain types of stars. Supernovae are more energetic than novae. In Latin, nova means "new", referring astronomically to what appears to be a temporary new bright star. Adding the prefix "super-" distinguishes supernovae from ordinary novae, which are far less luminous; the word supernova was coined by Walter Baade and Fritz Zwicky in 1931. Only three Milky Way, naked-eye supernova events have been observed during the last thousand years, though many have been seen in other galaxies; the most recent directly observed supernova in the Milky Way was Kepler's Supernova in 1604, but two more recent supernova remnants have been found. Statistical observations of supernovae in other galaxies suggest they occur on average about three times every century in the Milky Way, that any galactic supernova would certainly be observable with modern astronomical telescopes. Supernovae may expel much, if not all, of the material away from a star at velocities up to 30,000 km/s or 10% of the speed of light.
This drives an expanding and fast-moving shock wave into the surrounding interstellar medium, in turn, sweeping up an expanding shell of gas and dust, observed as a supernova remnant. Supernovae create and eject the bulk of the chemical elements produced by nucleosynthesis. Supernovae play a significant role in enriching the interstellar medium with the heavier atomic mass chemical elements. Furthermore, the expanding shock waves from supernovae can trigger the formation of new stars. Supernova remnants are expected to accelerate a large fraction of galactic primary cosmic rays, but direct evidence for cosmic ray production was found only in a few of them so far, they are potentially strong galactic sources of gravitational waves. Theoretical studies indicate that most supernovae are triggered by one of two basic mechanisms: the sudden re-ignition of nuclear fusion in a degenerate star or the sudden gravitational collapse of a massive star's core. In the first instance, a degenerate white dwarf may accumulate sufficient material from a binary companion, either through accretion or via a merger, to raise its core temperature enough to trigger runaway nuclear fusion disrupting the star.
In the second case, the core of a massive star may undergo sudden gravitational collapse, releasing gravitational potential energy as a supernova. While some observed supernovae are more complex than these two simplified theories, the astrophysical collapse mechanics have been established and accepted by most astronomers for some time. Owing to the wide range of astrophysical consequences of these events, astronomers now deem supernova research, across the fields of stellar and galactic evolution, as an important area for investigation; the earliest recorded supernova HB9 was viewed by Indians 5,000-years ago and recorded in the oldest Star chart. The SN 185, was viewed by Chinese astronomers in 185 AD; the brightest recorded supernova was SN 1006, which occurred in 1006 AD and was described by observers across China, Iraq and Europe. The observed supernova SN 1054 produced the Crab Nebula. Supernovae SN 1572 and SN 1604, the latest to be observed with the naked eye in the Milky Way galaxy, had notable effects on the development of astronomy in Europe because they were used to argue against the Aristotelian idea that the universe beyond the Moon and planets was static and unchanging.
Johannes Kepler began observing SN 1604 at its peak on October 17, 1604, continued to make estimates of its brightness until it faded from naked eye view a year later. It was the second supernova to be observed in a generation. There is some evidence that the youngest galactic supernova, G1.9+0.3, occurred in the late 19th century more than Cassiopeia A from around 1680. Neither supernova was noted at the time. In the case of G1.9+0.3, high extinction along the plane of the galaxy could have dimmed the event sufficiently to go unnoticed. The situation for Cassiopeia A is less clear. Infrared light echos have been detected showing that it was a type IIb supernova and was not in a region of high extinction. Before the development of the telescope, only five supernovae were seen in the last millennium. Compared to a star's entire history, the visual appearance of a galactic supernova is brief spanning several months, so that the chances of observing one is once in a lifetime. Only a tiny fraction of the 100 billion stars in a typical galaxy have the capacity to become a supernova, restricted to either those having large mass or extraordinarily rare kinds of binary stars containing white dwarfs.
However and discovery of extragalactic supernovae are now far more common. The first such observation was of SN 1885A in the Andromeda galaxy. Today and professional astronomers are finding several hundred every year, some when near maximum brightness, others on old astronomical photographs or plates. American astronomers Rudolph Minkowski and Fritz Zwicky developed the modern supernova classification scheme beginning in 1941. During the 1960s, astronomers found that the maximum intensities of supernovae could be used as standard candles, hence indicators of astronomical distances; some of the most distant supernovae observed in 2003, appeared dimmer than expected. This supports the view. Techniques were developed for reconstructing supernovae events that have no written records of being observed; the date of the Cassiopeia A supernova event was determined from light echoes off nebulae, while the age of supernova remnant RX J0852.0-4622 was estimated from temperature
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process, it is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen; the Sun is a G-type main-sequence star based on its spectral class. As such, it is informally and not accurately referred to as a yellow dwarf, it formed 4.6 billion years ago from the gravitational collapse of matter within a region of a large molecular cloud. Most of this matter gathered in the center, whereas the rest flattened into an orbiting disk that became the Solar System; the central mass became so hot and dense that it initiated nuclear fusion in its core. It is thought that all stars form by this process.
The Sun is middle-aged. It fuses about 600 million tons of hydrogen into helium every second, converting 4 million tons of matter into energy every second as a result; this energy, which can take between 10,000 and 170,000 years to escape from its core, is the source of the Sun's light and heat. In about 5 billion years, when hydrogen fusion in its core has diminished to the point at which the Sun is no longer in hydrostatic equilibrium, its core will undergo a marked increase in density and temperature while its outer layers expand to become a red giant, it is calculated that the Sun will become sufficiently large to engulf the current orbits of Mercury and Venus, render Earth uninhabitable. After this, it will shed its outer layers and become a dense type of cooling star known as a white dwarf, no longer produce energy by fusion, but still glow and give off heat from its previous fusion; the enormous effect of the Sun on Earth has been recognized since prehistoric times, the Sun has been regarded by some cultures as a deity.
The synodic rotation of Earth and its orbit around the Sun are the basis of solar calendars, one of, the predominant calendar in use today. The English proper name Sun may be related to south. Cognates to English sun appear in other Germanic languages, including Old Frisian sunne, Old Saxon sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, modern Dutch zon, Old High German sunna, modern German Sonne, Old Norse sunna, Gothic sunnō. All Germanic terms for the Sun stem from Proto-Germanic *sunnōn; the Latin name for the Sun, Sol, is not used in everyday English. Sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on another planet, such as Mars; the related word solar is the usual adjectival term used for the Sun, in terms such as solar day, solar eclipse, Solar System. A mean Earth solar day is 24 hours, whereas a mean Martian'sol' is 24 hours, 39 minutes, 35.244 seconds. The English weekday name Sunday stems from Old English and is a result of a Germanic interpretation of Latin dies solis, itself a translation of the Greek ἡμέρα ἡλίου.
The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star. The Sun has an absolute magnitude of +4.83, estimated to be brighter than about 85% of the stars in the Milky Way, most of which are red dwarfs. The Sun is heavy-element-rich, star; the formation of the Sun may have been triggered by shockwaves from more nearby supernovae. This is suggested by a high abundance of heavy elements in the Solar System, such as gold and uranium, relative to the abundances of these elements in so-called Population II, heavy-element-poor, stars; the heavy elements could most plausibly have been produced by endothermic nuclear reactions during a supernova, or by transmutation through neutron absorption within a massive second-generation star. The Sun is by far the brightest object in the Earth's sky, with an apparent magnitude of −26.74. This is about 13 billion times brighter than the next brightest star, which has an apparent magnitude of −1.46. The mean distance of the Sun's center to Earth's center is 1 astronomical unit, though the distance varies as Earth moves from perihelion in January to aphelion in July.
At this average distance, light travels from the Sun's horizon to Earth's horizon in about 8 minutes and 19 seconds, while light from the closest points of the Sun and Earth takes about two seconds less. The energy of this sunlight supports all life on Earth by photosynthesis, drives Earth's climate and weather; the Sun does not have a definite boundary, but its density decreases exponentially with increasing height above the photosphere. For the purpose of measurement, the Sun's radius is considered to be the distance from its center to the edge of the photosphere, the apparent visible surface of the Sun. By this measure, the Sun is a near-perfect sphere with an oblateness estimated at about 9 millionths, which means that its polar diameter differs from its equatorial diameter by only 10 kilometres; the tidal effect of the planets is weak and does not affect the shape of the Sun. The Sun rotates faster at its equator than at its poles; this differential rotation is caused by convective motion
In physics, redshift is a phenomenon where electromagnetic radiation from an object undergoes an increase in wavelength. Whether or not the radiation is visible, "redshift" means an increase in wavelength, equivalent to a decrease in wave frequency and photon energy, in accordance with the wave and quantum theories of light. Neither the emitted nor perceived light is red. Examples of redshifting are a gamma ray perceived as an X-ray, or visible light perceived as radio waves; the opposite of a redshift is energy increases. However, redshift is a more common term and sometimes blueshift is referred to as negative redshift. There are three main causes of red in astronomy and cosmology: Objects move apart in space; this is an example of the Doppler effect. Space itself expands; this is known as cosmological redshift. All sufficiently distant light sources show redshift corresponding to the rate of increase in their distance from Earth, known as Hubble's Law. Gravitational redshift is a relativistic effect observed due to strong gravitational fields, which distort spacetime and exert a force on light and other particles.
Knowledge of redshifts and blueshifts has been used to develop several terrestrial technologies such as Doppler radar and radar guns. Redshifts are seen in the spectroscopic observations of astronomical objects, its value is represented by the letter z. A special relativistic redshift formula can be used to calculate the redshift of a nearby object when spacetime is flat. However, in many contexts, such as black holes and Big Bang cosmology, redshifts must be calculated using general relativity. Special relativistic and cosmological redshifts can be understood under the umbrella of frame transformation laws. There exist other physical processes that can lead to a shift in the frequency of electromagnetic radiation, including scattering and optical effects; the history of the subject began with the development in the 19th century of wave mechanics and the exploration of phenomena associated with the Doppler effect. The effect is named after Christian Doppler, who offered the first known physical explanation for the phenomenon in 1842.
The hypothesis was tested and confirmed for sound waves by the Dutch scientist Christophorus Buys Ballot in 1845. Doppler predicted that the phenomenon should apply to all waves, in particular suggested that the varying colors of stars could be attributed to their motion with respect to the Earth. Before this was verified, however, it was found that stellar colors were due to a star's temperature, not motion. Only was Doppler vindicated by verified redshift observations; the first Doppler redshift was described by French physicist Hippolyte Fizeau in 1848, who pointed to the shift in spectral lines seen in stars as being due to the Doppler effect. The effect is sometimes called the "Doppler–Fizeau effect". In 1868, British astronomer William Huggins was the first to determine the velocity of a star moving away from the Earth by this method. In 1871, optical redshift was confirmed when the phenomenon was observed in Fraunhofer lines using solar rotation, about 0.1 Å in the red. In 1887, Vogel and Scheiner discovered the annual Doppler effect, the yearly change in the Doppler shift of stars located near the ecliptic due to the orbital velocity of the Earth.
In 1901, Aristarkh Belopolsky verified optical redshift in the laboratory using a system of rotating mirrors. The earliest occurrence of the term red-shift in print appears to be by American astronomer Walter S. Adams in 1908, in which he mentions "Two methods of investigating that nature of the nebular red-shift"; the word does not appear unhyphenated until about 1934 by Willem de Sitter indicating that up to that point its German equivalent, was more used. Beginning with observations in 1912, Vesto Slipher discovered that most spiral galaxies mostly thought to be spiral nebulae, had considerable redshifts. Slipher first reports on his measurement in the inaugural volume of the Lowell Observatory Bulletin. Three years he wrote a review in the journal Popular Astronomy. In it he states that "the early discovery that the great Andromeda spiral had the quite exceptional velocity of –300 km showed the means available, capable of investigating not only the spectra of the spirals but their velocities as well."
Slipher reported the velocities for 15 spiral nebulae spread across the entire celestial sphere, all but three having observable "positive" velocities. Subsequently, Edwin Hubble discovered an approximate relationship between the redshifts of such "nebulae" and the distances to them with the formulation of his eponymous Hubble's law; these observations corroborated Alexander Friedmann's 1922 work, in which he derived the Friedmann-Lemaître equations. They are today considered strong evidence for the Big Bang theory; the spectrum of light that comes from a single source can be measured. To determine the redshift, one searches for features in the spectrum such as absorption lines, emission lines, or other variations in light intensity. If found, these featur
ArXiv is a repository of electronic preprints approved for posting after moderation, but not full peer review. It consists of scientific papers in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, electrical engineering, computer science, quantitative biology, mathematical finance and economics, which can be accessed online. In many fields of mathematics and physics all scientific papers are self-archived on the arXiv repository. Begun on August 14, 1991, arXiv.org passed the half-million-article milestone on October 3, 2008, had hit a million by the end of 2014. By October 2016 the submission rate had grown to more than 10,000 per month. ArXiv was made possible by the compact TeX file format, which allowed scientific papers to be transmitted over the Internet and rendered client-side. Around 1990, Joanne Cohn began emailing physics preprints to colleagues as TeX files, but the number of papers being sent soon filled mailboxes to capacity. Paul Ginsparg recognized the need for central storage, in August 1991 he created a central repository mailbox stored at the Los Alamos National Laboratory which could be accessed from any computer.
Additional modes of access were soon added: FTP in 1991, Gopher in 1992, the World Wide Web in 1993. The term e-print was adopted to describe the articles, it began as a physics archive, called the LANL preprint archive, but soon expanded to include astronomy, computer science, quantitative biology and, most statistics. Its original domain name was xxx.lanl.gov. Due to LANL's lack of interest in the expanding technology, in 2001 Ginsparg changed institutions to Cornell University and changed the name of the repository to arXiv.org. It is now hosted principally with eight mirrors around the world, its existence was one of the precipitating factors that led to the current movement in scientific publishing known as open access. Mathematicians and scientists upload their papers to arXiv.org for worldwide access and sometimes for reviews before they are published in peer-reviewed journals. Ginsparg was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2002 for his establishment of arXiv; the annual budget for arXiv is $826,000 for 2013 to 2017, funded jointly by Cornell University Library, the Simons Foundation and annual fee income from member institutions.
This model arose in 2010, when Cornell sought to broaden the financial funding of the project by asking institutions to make annual voluntary contributions based on the amount of download usage by each institution. Each member institution pledges a five-year funding commitment to support arXiv. Based on institutional usage ranking, the annual fees are set in four tiers from $1,000 to $4,400. Cornell's goal is to raise at least $504,000 per year through membership fees generated by 220 institutions. In September 2011, Cornell University Library took overall administrative and financial responsibility for arXiv's operation and development. Ginsparg was quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education as saying it "was supposed to be a three-hour tour, not a life sentence". However, Ginsparg remains on the arXiv Scientific Advisory Board and on the arXiv Physics Advisory Committee. Although arXiv is not peer reviewed, a collection of moderators for each area review the submissions; the lists of moderators for many sections of arXiv are publicly available, but moderators for most of the physics sections remain unlisted.
Additionally, an "endorsement" system was introduced in 2004 as part of an effort to ensure content is relevant and of interest to current research in the specified disciplines. Under the system, for categories that use it, an author must be endorsed by an established arXiv author before being allowed to submit papers to those categories. Endorsers are not asked to review the paper for errors, but to check whether the paper is appropriate for the intended subject area. New authors from recognized academic institutions receive automatic endorsement, which in practice means that they do not need to deal with the endorsement system at all. However, the endorsement system has attracted criticism for restricting scientific inquiry. A majority of the e-prints are submitted to journals for publication, but some work, including some influential papers, remain purely as e-prints and are never published in a peer-reviewed journal. A well-known example of the latter is an outline of a proof of Thurston's geometrization conjecture, including the Poincaré conjecture as a particular case, uploaded by Grigori Perelman in November 2002.
Perelman appears content to forgo the traditional peer-reviewed journal process, stating: "If anybody is interested in my way of solving the problem, it's all there – let them go and read about it". Despite this non-traditional method of publication, other mathematicians recognized this work by offering the Fields Medal and Clay Mathematics Millennium Prizes to Perelman, both of which he refused. Papers can be submitted in any of several formats, including LaTeX, PDF printed from a word processor other than TeX or LaTeX; the submission is rejected by the arXiv software if generating the final PDF file fails, if any image file is too large, or if the total size of the submission is too large. ArXiv now allows one to store and modify an incomplete submission, only finalize the submission when ready; the time stamp on the article is set. The standard access route is through one of several mirrors. Sev
A galaxy is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas and dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias "milky", a reference to the Milky Way. Galaxies range in size from dwarfs with just a few hundred million stars to giants with one hundred trillion stars, each orbiting its galaxy's center of mass. Galaxies are categorized according to their visual morphology as spiral, or irregular. Many galaxies are thought to have supermassive black holes at their centers; the Milky Way's central black hole, known as Sagittarius A*, has a mass four million times greater than the Sun. As of March 2016, GN-z11 is the oldest and most distant observed galaxy with a comoving distance of 32 billion light-years from Earth, observed as it existed just 400 million years after the Big Bang. Research released in 2016 revised the number of galaxies in the observable universe from a previous estimate of 200 billion to a suggested 2 trillion or more, containing more stars than all the grains of sand on planet Earth.
Most of the galaxies are 1,000 to 100,000 parsecs in diameter and separated by distances on the order of millions of parsecs. For comparison, the Milky Way has a diameter of at least 30,000 parsecs and is separated from the Andromeda Galaxy, its nearest large neighbor, by 780,000 parsecs; the space between galaxies is filled with a tenuous gas having an average density of less than one atom per cubic meter. The majority of galaxies are gravitationally organized into groups and superclusters; the Milky Way is part of the Local Group, dominated by it and the Andromeda Galaxy and is part of the Virgo Supercluster. At the largest scale, these associations are arranged into sheets and filaments surrounded by immense voids; the largest structure of galaxies yet recognised is a cluster of superclusters, named Laniakea, which contains the Virgo supercluster. The origin of the word galaxy derives from the Greek term for the Milky Way, galaxias, or kyklos galaktikos due to its appearance as a "milky" band of light in the sky.
In Greek mythology, Zeus places his son born by a mortal woman, the infant Heracles, on Hera's breast while she is asleep so that the baby will drink her divine milk and will thus become immortal. Hera wakes up while breastfeeding and realizes she is nursing an unknown baby: she pushes the baby away, some of her milk spills, it produces the faint band of light known as the Milky Way. In the astronomical literature, the capitalized word "Galaxy" is used to refer to our galaxy, the Milky Way, to distinguish it from the other galaxies in our universe; the English term Milky Way can be traced back to a story by Chaucer c. 1380: "See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë Which men clepeth the Milky Wey, For hit is whyt." Galaxies were discovered telescopically and were known as spiral nebulae. Most 18th to 19th Century astronomers considered them as either unresolved star clusters or anagalactic nebulae, were just thought as a part of the Milky Way, but their true composition and natures remained a mystery. Observations using larger telescopes of a few nearby bright galaxies, like the Andromeda Galaxy, began resolving them into huge conglomerations of stars, but based on the apparent faintness and sheer population of stars, the true distances of these objects placed them well beyond the Milky Way.
For this reason they were popularly called island universes, but this term fell into disuse, as the word universe implied the entirety of existence. Instead, they became known as galaxies. Tens of thousands of galaxies have been catalogued, but only a few have well-established names, such as the Andromeda Galaxy, the Magellanic Clouds, the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Sombrero Galaxy. Astronomers work with numbers from certain catalogues, such as the Messier catalogue, the NGC, the IC, the CGCG, the MCG and UGC. All of the well-known galaxies appear in one or more of these catalogues but each time under a different number. For example, Messier 109 is a spiral galaxy having the number 109 in the catalogue of Messier, having the designations NGC 3992, UGC 6937, CGCG 269-023, MCG +09-20-044, PGC 37617; the realization that we live in a galaxy, one among many galaxies, parallels major discoveries that were made about the Milky Way and other nebulae. The Greek philosopher Democritus proposed that the bright band on the night sky known as the Milky Way might consist of distant stars.
Aristotle, believed the Milky Way to be caused by "the ignition of the fiery exhalation of some stars that were large and close together" and that the "ignition takes place in the upper part of the atmosphere, in the region of the World, continuous with the heavenly motions." The Neoplatonist philosopher Olympiodorus the Younger was critical of this view, arguing that if the Milky Way is sublunary it should appear different at different times and places on Earth, that it should have parallax, which it does not. In his view, the Milky Way is celestial. According to Mohani Mohamed, the Arabian astronomer Alhazen made the first attempt at observing and measuring the Milky Way's parallax, he thus "determined that because the Milky Way had no parallax, it must be remote from the Earth, not belonging to the atmosphere." The Persian astronomer al-Bīrūnī