Our galaxy is a whole lot bigger than it looks. New work finds that the Milky Way stretches nearly 2 million light-years across, more than 15 times wider than its luminous spiral disk. The number could lead to a better estimate of how massive the galaxy is and how many other galaxies orbit it.
Astronomers have long known that the brightest part of the Milky Way, the pancake-shaped disk of stars that houses the sun, is some 120,000 light-years across (SN: 8/1/19). Beyond this stellar disk is a disk of gas. A vast halo of dark matter, presumably full of invisible particles, engulfs both disks and stretches far beyond them (SN: 10/25/16). But because the dark halo emits no light, its diameter is hard to measure.