This is the Milky Way. Actually, just a picture.
To really see the Milky Way, get away from the city (anywhere far from city lights). Put out a blanket. Lie down with someone you love, and look up.
Over 200 billion stars. Over 100,000 light-years across. We’re sitting 27,000 light-years from that glowing center, on the edge of the spiral-shaped Orion Arm. This galaxy, our home, is almost as old as the universe itself, at over 13 billion years. The Milky Way, which seems so still, is moving at over 2 million miles an hour through space.
True story: Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson grew up in Brooklyn, where he couldn’t see the Milky Way, or much else of the heavens. When he was about 9, his folks took him to rural Pennsylvania, and when he saw the true glory of the heavens for the first time, it made such a tremendous impact, he was inspired to become an astrophysicist. Now, had he grown up in rural Pennsylvania, he might’ve taken the Milky Way for granted.
The enduring romance of the Milky Way has been celebrated in Japan and China for over 2,000 years. According to legend, the Milky Way separates two lovers, and they are allowed to meet only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar. Their annual reunion is celebrated with a festival called the Tanabata or Star Festival in Japan, and the Qixi Festival in China. Versions of this story are in Japan’s oldest known collections of poetry.
When it comes to the romance of the Milky Way, perhaps the great astronomer Stevie Wonder captured it best in his song, “Ribbon In The Sky.” Listen closely. Feel the luxurious fabric of space-time.
This is not a coincidence
And far more than a lucky chance
But what is, that was always meant
Is a ribbon in the sky for our love, love