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Milky Way Galaxy

What percentage of stars in the sky are not in the milky way?


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November 08, 2007 12:52PM

That depends on how you define the "Milky Way". Technically, the "Milky Way" refers to a faint band of light that crosses the night sky. This band is how we see the star-dense disk of our galaxy from our vantage point inside that disk. Our galaxy was named for this band of light, and called the "Milky Way Galaxy". Note that the "Milky Way" and the "Milky Way Galaxy" refer to two different things. The answer also depends on what you mean by "stars in the sky". Do you mean the stars that can be seen from Earth? And if so, with the naked eye, or with a telecope? How powerful a telescope? Or do you mean every star that is "out there", i.e., every star in the universe, whether we can see it or not? I could sit here all day researching and entering answers to all the different ways this question could be interpreted. But I'm not going to waste that kind of time until you tell me what you are talking about. However, there is one way of interpreting this question that I already know the answer to, and I will give you that answer here. If the "Milky Way" means the galaxy, and if "stars in the sky" means stars visible, with the naked eye, from Earth's surface, then the answer is zero. There are no stars outside of our galaxy that are visible from here on Earth. There are a few "objects" outside our galaxy that are visible with the naked eye. But these objects are, for the most part, galaxies themselves, not individual stars. They are so far away that their immense masses appear to us as tiny pinpoints of light, indistinguishable from the true stars we can see. In fact, they are dimmer than most of the stars we can see. In all of the universe, I believe there is not a single individual star outside of our galaxy that is bright enough to be seen from Earth with the naked eye. But I may be wrong on that. There MAY be a couple of stars in one of the Magellanic Clouds that can be seen. But even if that is the case, the answer to the question is still, essentially, zero.