Where Is the Center and Where Are We

Galileo and other astronomers soon realized that the stars around us were distributed in a distinct way, confined to a narrow band of the sky. In the late eighteenth century, William Herschel proposed the first model of our Galaxy, suggesting that it was disk shaped, and that our sun lay near the center of the disk. This model held some psychological comfort (the earth having been so recently elbowed from the center of the universe), but it had a problem. Herschel failed to account for what is now known as interstellar extinction. He had assumed that spore was transparent. But the disk of our galaxy is "foggy," and we can see only so far into the "fog."

The Galactic bulge or nuclear bulge is a swelling at the center of our Galaxy. The bulge consists of old stars and extends out a few thousand light-years from the Galactic center.

Star Words

The Galactic bulge or nuclear bulge is a swelling at the center of our Galaxy. The bulge consists of old stars and extends out a few thousand light-years from the Galactic center.

As a result, we appear to be at the center of the disk— (from star counts in various directions) not because we actually are, but because the dust in our Galaxy absorbs visible light so that we can only see out into the disk for a limited distance.

It was not until early in the twentieth century that we realized that we were not in the center of our own Galaxy, but at its far outer reaches.

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