It’s official: the Milky Way is white. A group of scientists announced their success at determining the exact color of earth’s home galaxy at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Not only is the Milky Way white, but according to BBC News, it is described as a “spring snow at an hour after sunrise or before sunset.” Sounds pretty nice to us.
So why is the color of the Milky Way such a big deal? Knowing the color of the galaxy helps astronomers figure out how old its stars are and how recently it formed new stars. Jeffrey Newman of the University of Pittsburgh told BBC News that “for astronomers, one of the most important parameters is actually the color of the galaxy.”
Figuring out the hue of the Milky Way is an extremely difficult task since we have to look at it from the inside. Not only that, but according to Newman, there is dust blocking scientists’ view.
Newman and his student Tim Licquia used data on 1 million galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and compared it with information known about the total mass in the Milky Way and the rate of star formation. They then took an average of those galaxies that most closely matched the Milky Way and determined a precise measurement of the galaxy’s color.
Based on their findings, it appears the rate of star formation in the Milky Way is declining over time and the galaxy is in transition. “The Milky Way is in a very interesting evolutionary state right now,” Newman told the BBC.