History of the Universe

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Milky Way Galaxy

The galaxy in which we live is called the Milky Way, or just “the Galaxy”.

How did the Milky Way get its name?

Nobody is sure! The ancient Greeks had several stories about it. According to Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology, Jenny, March, 2001:

“The mythological explanation for the origin of this smear was that the goddess Hera was tricked into suckling the baby Heracles, son of her husband Zeus by the beautiful mortal Alcmene. But when she discovered who the baby was she tore her breast from his mouth, and her milk spurted across the sky. You understand, of course, that the gods lived in the sky.”

There was also another legend that the Milky Way was created when Phaethon, son of Helios (the Sun-god) set the heavens on fire with his father’s sun-chariot.

Ovid in Metamorphoses 1.168-71 saw it as the highway of the gods, leading to Jupiter’s palace.

Formation of Milky Way

The Milky Way Galaxy probably formed in the same way as other galaxies, as we described before. Guided by dark matter, the force of gravity condensed a small lump of hydrogen and helium gas perhaps 12 billion years ago. Note that these details are uncertain, since we do not have a good understanding of the origin of galaxies.

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