The Milky Way as well as being a chocolate bar is the name of the galaxy that we live in. It is home to an estimated 100-400 billion star which some may or may not have orbitting Extrasolar Planets (Exoplanets) and maybe intelligent aliens. It is believed that the galaxy is a spiral galaxy and that our location in the galaxy is one of the suburbs rather than in the city centre. The N.A.S.A. picture below is an Artists impression of what the galaxy seen from above looks like and our location within the galaxy. We can only speculate what the galaxy does look like because to take a photo would take thousands of years to get into position so we base the impression on what we know. It was generated by looking at the locations of the stars that are currently in the sky and then plotting what we know. The arms of our galaxy are named after constellations Scutum-Centaurus , Norma , Perseus , Sagittarius and the Orion spur.
The centre of the galaxy can be found in the constellation of Sagittarius and is believed to a supermassive black hole. If you`re unable to locate the our Sun, its at the point where all the lines cross over. The galaxy is an estimated 100 Light Years across and we`re about 30 light years from the centre as you can see from the picture. Like the Earth which rotates round the Sun, our Sun rotates round the centre of the Milky Way, taking 200 million years to complete one Galactic Year. 1
Our Milky Way is on a collission course with the Andromeda galaxy which is moving at a speed of 75 miles per second. However before screaming that the world will end, because of the collision, don`t worry, it won`t take place for another four billion years. Unless the Human Race has come up with a faster than light engine and left this solar system will have died out long before the collision. Life on Earth has an estimated one billion years left, plenty of time to hopefully come up with a device. As there is large gaps between stars, there won`t be that much in the way of Stars colliding, the following video is a simulation of what would probably happen. It won`t be the first time that the Milky Way will have merged or consumed another galaxy, the Milky Way has been doing so for years. When the constellations collide, a new series of star creation will begin. Currently, it is estimated that seven new stars are born in the Milky Way every year. 2 It is considerably lower than the number of starts that were being created at the start of universe. Every fifty years a Star is believed to go supernova but one has not happened for the pasty fifty years so one is due soon according to the last link.
The Andromeda Galaxy will not be the first first galaxy that will merge with our own galaxy. The star Methuselah Star which is widely acknowledged as being the oldest star in the galaxy is believed to have come from another galaxy that was consumed by the Milky Way. The Sagitarrius Dwarf Spheroidal galaxy is said to be in the final stages of being ripped apart by our own galaxy. Another galaxy, the Canis Major galaxy is in the final stages of being ripped apart by our own galaxy. The Canis Major galaxy was only discovered in 1994. A galaxy collision is therefore nothing to worry about, it won`t result in destruction of life on this planet. ref:SciShow
Our galaxy will consume the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds before the Andromeda galaxy strikes. After its consumed those, it will consume other close by dwarf galaxies,
The Milky Way is small compared to other galaxies in the Universe. The Andromeda galaxy is twice the size of our galaxy. The IC 1101 galaxy in the constellation of Virgo is 5 Million light years across which makes our galaxy seem tiny. There a difference of opinions on where the IC 1101 galaxy is located, either in Virgo or Serpens. It is probably on the border of the two constellation hence the difference in reporting.
The origins of the name comes from ancient times when light pollution wasn`t anywhere near as it is today. When earlier astronomers looked up at the sky and saw that the sky looked like a milky patch. In Greek Mythology, Zeus brought home his half mortal son Hercules to be cared for by Zeus and his wife Hera. When Hera was sleeping, Hercules tried to breast feeding but Hera woke up and pushed Hercules away and her breast milk was spilt on the skies.