Milky Way Extra Credit English astronomer Thomas Wright and German philosopher Immanuel Kant suggested in the mid-1700s that the Milky Way is a flattened swarm of stars. They argued that if the Solar System were near the center of a spherical cloud of stars, we could see roughly the same number of stars in all directions. However, from inside a disk-shaped system, we would see vastly more stars in directions toward the outer edge of the disk than in directions perpendicular to it. This explains why the stars of the Milky Way appear to stretch around us in a great circle. US astronomer Harlow Shapley contributed to the understanding of the Milky Way in 1920 when he argued that the Milky Way was approximately 100-kilo parsecs across and that the Sun was not near the center of the galaxy but rather approximately 2/3 of the way out in the disk. During Shapley’s graduate studies at Princeton, working under Henry Norris Russell, he studied the locations of globular clusters. He also argued that these very luminous objects,
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This note was uploaded on 05/03/2008 for the course ASTRO 107 taught by Professor Burns during the Spring '08 term at MATC Madison.