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Compact Cosmos

15 14 Approaching from a distance, our own galaxy appears as a starry whirlpool. We first encounter the halo,a spherical shell of dust,gas, and the occasional glob of old stars,that stretches out about 130,000 lightyears,deep into intergalactic space. Elegant spiral arms trace a flattened disk, roughly 100,000 light years across and 1,000 thick. The arms, bright with young and newborn stars, are thought to result from slowly circling density waves. In between lie dark dust lanes. Our solar system is quietly tucked away in the Orion Arm arrowed about twothirds out. In the middle is the bulge, some 25,000 lightyears across and populated with older stars. In the center, anchoring it all, lurks Sagittarius A,assumed to be a spinning black hole of over 4 million solar masses below. Surroundingthis arethreadlike plasma structures and supernova remnants SNR, all orbiting at a slight tilt to the main galactic disk. A flock of neutron stars and smaller black holes can also be found in the vicinity. THELOCALGALAXY meeting the milky way
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