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The Question

(Submitted February 02, 1998)

Are the stars we see at night all from our own galaxy? How many stars are in our galaxy?

The Answer

We can only see a few thousand stars at most with our unaided eyes. These are a mixture of stars which are nearby, and bright stars which are further away; but they are only a tiny fraction of the 100,000,000,000 stars in our own galaxy. We can't see stars in other galaxies without powerful telescopes. In fact the entire brightest neighboring galaxy (M31, the Andromeda galaxy), which contains more stars than our own, is only as bright as an average star visible to the unaided eye.

Paul Butterworth
for the Ask an Astrophysicist team

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