Q:

How are the Milky Way galaxy and the Centaurus constellation similar?

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Quick Answer

Although the first is a constellation and the second is a galaxy, Centaurus has a spiral structure similar to the Milky Way's, with a dense core and arms that extend outward. Astronomers suspect that Centaurus contains a black hole much like the one found in the center of the Milky Way.

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Full Answer

The constellation Centaurus, located in the southern sky, holds a number of notable stars and one globular cluster that are visible to the naked eye. The binary star system Alpha Centauri has two stars orbiting each other, one very similar to the sun in size and the other slightly smaller. Both are about 4.3 light years from the sun, making it the closest star system to Earth. The globular cluster Omega Centauri contains millions of stars relatively close together, and the movements of these stars suggest it has a black hole at its center. Astronomers think the cluster is 12 billion years old and came from a dwarf galaxy absorbed by the Milky Way.

Because Centaurus lies along one of the Milky Way’s spiral arms, it contains a large number of other interesting stars, all requiring a telescope for observation. Beyond the Milky Way the constellation also contains many different kinds of clusters and galaxies, including Centaurus A, the fifth brightest galaxy and a strong source of radio data.

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