Research presented recently at the American Astronomical Society (AAS) meeting in Long Beach, California suggests that our Milky Way Galaxy is considerably larger than originally believed. Astronomers used the VLBA (Very Long Baseline Array) to map our home galaxy in high detail. The results suggest that the Milky Way is comparable in size to the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy (M31), previously the largest in our local group of galaxies. More details on the announcement are available from the BBC.
Our Milky Way Galaxy can be seen as a ghostly glow across the sky when viewed from dark locations. It represents the collective light of billions of distant stars. It is (unfortunately), not visible from many locations due to the presence of light pollution, a growing worldwide problem created by improperly implemented outdoor lighting. M31, The Andromeda Galaxy is a huge spiral galaxy located in the fall constellation Andromeda. M31 is the most distant object that can be seen with the naked eye, located just over 2 million light years away.
The accompanying image was taken by Robert Gendler.