Stargazing: Follow the Milky Way to Sagittarius and Scorpius

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If your vacation travels take you away from the bright lights of the city this summer, look for a hazy band of faint light arching up from the southern horizon, traversing high across the eastern sky and dipping down in the north. That cloudy band of light is our galaxy, the Milky Way, a spiral mass of gas, dust and stars that stretches more than 100,000 light-years from end to end. Our sun, which lies about halfway between the galaxy's center and edge, is just one of more than 100 billion other stars that make up our galaxy.

If you follow the band of the Milky Way down to the southern horizon, you will locate Sagittarius, the Archer and Scorpius, the Scorpion. An outline of the bright stars in Sagittarius resembles a teapot rather than a centaur archer figure, and the bright stars in Scorpius outline a fishhook. When you look toward the spout of the teapot, you are looking toward the center of the Milky Way.


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