How much of the universe does the Milky Way block us seeing?

Does the Milky Way block our view of stars in the night sky?


The Milky Way is our home galaxy and is relatively flat overall, in a huge spiral shape. Our Solar System is located in a spiral arm just over halfway out. This means that from our viewpoint on Earth the stars, dust and gas that form our Milky Way are all concentrated into a thin band stretching 360 degrees around our planet. While the Milky Way does get in the way in these directions, different wavelengths of light can get through by differing amounts. For example if you’re using visible light (the light our eyes can see), the Milky Way obstructs about 20% of the total sky but this decreases in wavelengths such as the infrared. Even so, about 10% of the sky is still difficult to observe because our own galaxy gets in the way to some extent.

Image courtesy of ESO/S. Guisard

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