Our Milky Way galaxy is so large that it would take 100,000 years to travel from one of its edges to the opposite using a spacecraft that flies at the speed of light if humanity somehow creates such a spaceship. That means that Milky Way has a diameter of 100,000 light-years. Our galaxy is even home to hundreds of billions of stars and perhaps many more planets.
Just trying to imagine the size of the Milky Way can give you a sense of dizziness. But there are other galaxies out there in the vast ocean of space that are a lot bigger. So big that the sizes of our Milky Way galaxy will easily pale in comparison. One of those galaxies is Alcyoneus, which represents a new discovery for science.
Alcyoneus: the biggest radio galaxy ever found
Space.com tells us about the discovery of Alcynoeus, which has now become the biggest radio galaxy ever found since it covers a minimum of 16 million light-years of space. It’s located roughly 3 billion light-years away from us, and its discovery itself represented a ‘stroke of luck,’ according to the astronomers.
Alcyoneus is also the name of the son of Ouranos, meaning the primordial god of the sky in Greek mythology.
The researchers wrote, as quoted by LiveScience.com:
We have discovered what is in projection the largest known structure made by a single galaxy – a giant radio galaxy with a projected proper length [of] 4.99 ± 0.04 megaparsecs [16.28 million light-years]. The true proper length is at least … 5.04 ± 0.05 megaparsecs [16.44 million light-years].
The study was led by Martijn Oei, an astronomer who works at Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands.
Maybe you’ve also wondered if size matters. Well, it seems that the answer is “yes” when it comes to astronomy, as it can remind us about how small we truly are in the Universe.