The Milky Way has a mass that’s 890 billion times the mass of our sun.
That figure, as Live Science reports, is 3.9 tredecillion pounds — or the number 1 followed by 42 zeros. The mass is also equal to about 6 billion billion billion elephants, the science outlet reports.
It’s challenging to measure the mass of a galaxy that we occupy, however.
Researchers tend to “weigh” them by examining the movements of stars inside the galaxies, which can demonstrate how the galaxy’s gravity is impacting those stars.
An artist’s depiction of the Milky Way galaxy.
“The disk of our galaxy is spinning but not uniformly,” study co-author Fabio Iocco, an astrophysicist at Imperial College London, told Live Science. “Objects at different distances from the center of the galaxy go around that center at different speeds.”
The researchers reportedly compared their findings with previous work in this area and found that they lined up. Their paper was made available Monday in the arXiv database.
“If you do it for different distances, from the center until very far away, you get an estimate of the mass enclosed at increasing distances. So you can draw not only a total mass, but a mass distribution,” Iocco told Live Science.