Milky Way way smaller than we thought, researchers say

A NASA Hubble Space Telescope composite image shows star cluster NGC 2060, a loose collection of...

A NASA Hubble Space Telescope composite image shows star cluster NGC 2060, a loose collection of stars in 30 Doradus, located in the heart of the Tarantula Nebula 170,000 light-years away in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, in this handout photo released on April 17, 2012. (REUTERS/NASA/European Southern Observatory/Space Telescope Science Institute/Hubble Space Telescope)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:46 PM ET

The Milky Way is smaller than previously thought and about half the weight of neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, Scottish researchers say.

The University of Edinburgh researchers said their study is the first to accurately measure the mass within both galaxies, including 90% of the matter which is invisible. They said Andromeda contains about twice as much dark matter as the Milky Way, causing it to be twice as heavy.

"We always suspected that Andromeda is more massive than the Milky Way, but weighting both galaxies simultaneously proved to be extremely challenging. Our study combined recent measurements of the relative motion between our galaxy and Andromeda with the largest catalogue of nearby galaxies ever compiled to make this possible," lead researcher Jorge Penarrubia said in a press release.

The study was published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia helped with the study.


NASA's out of this world photos are a real trip


Photos like this one are abundant in the package of cosmic photos NASA released to celebrate Cosmos: A Space Odyssey. (Courtesy NASA)


Videos

Photos