When Was the Milky Way Discovered?


Quick Answer

The Milky Way has been observed for millennia, but the discovery that it was composed of stars and was our home galaxy emerged gradually. From ancient times through to the modern era, humankind has been adding to its understanding of the Milky Way.

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When Was the Milky Way Discovered?
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Full Answer

The ancient Greek philosophers Anaxagoras and Democritus thought that the Milky Way might be composed of stars, and later, Aristotle proposed that it was made up of "fiery exhalations" from lots of stars that were very close together. In 1610, Galileo observed the Milky Way through his telescope, actually proving that it was made up of a massive amount of stars. In the 1700s, William Herschel mapped the structure of the Milky Way, but surmised incorrectly that our solar system was near the center. In 1917, Heber Curtis made the case for the Milky Way being just one of a multitude of galaxies.

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