What Color Is the Milky Way?

color-milky-way Credit: Robert Lang Photography/Moment/Getty Images

In 2012, a team of astronomers from the University of Pittsburgh announced that the Milky Way galaxy is aptly named thanks to its pure, milky white color, which the scientists described as resembling a fresh snowfall. The fact that Earth is located within the Milky Way galaxy has made the process of measuring the galaxy's color difficult; obstructions from things like dust and gas within the galaxy had previously made it hard for scientists to get a broad enough view of the Milky Way in order to determine its color.

Color is actually an important galactic property that astronomers tend to study, so the revelation of the Milky Way's pure white color was an important step in understanding the Earth's own galaxy. The scientists working on the University of Pittsburgh project compared the process of determining the Milky Way's color to that of trying to determine the outdoor climate from inside a closed off indoor space with no outside view. It was not possible for the scientists to determine the color through simple observation, so the researchers used a process of comparing and contrasting images of the Milky Way with images of other galaxies in order to make a final color determination.