Milky Way’s Cosmic Spark: Revealing the Marvels of 2 star streams Shiva and Shakti

Since ancient times, our  ancestors  have recognized  the hazy band of  light stretching across the night sky. However, today it has become quite common knowledge that these bands  of light  represent  the Milky Way galaxy. Unfortunately,  these bands are not visible in cities  due to light pollution. But don’t fret!  We’ve got the  perfect  solution for  you. Pack  your bags  and  join us on the upcoming stargazing events to gaze upon the marvels of our universe. Before we delve into the fascinating discovery of Shiva and Shakti, let’s first explore some fundamental terms about galaxies.

Statue of lord Buddha at Lanza, Spiti Valley on the backdrop of real milky way galaxy
Milky way band from Spiti Valley


Galaxies are made up of planets, stars, and enormous clouds of gas and dust that are all pulled together by gravity. The massive galaxies can span over a million light-years and contain billions of stars. . The smaller ones can contain a few thousand stars and span just a few hundred light-years. Most of the large galaxies host’s supermassive black holes at their centers, some with billions of times the Solar mass.

Galaxies come in a variety of shapes, the most common ones are spirals and ellipticals, but there are also less ordered ones that are called irregulars.

A mesmerizing image showcasing the Milky Way galaxy, a vast expanse of stars and a luminous core
This illustration shows the Milky Way, our home galaxy, Credits : NASA/JPL-Caltech

The majority of galaxies have an estimated age of between 10 and 13.6 billion years. Some date back roughly 13.8 billion years, which is almost as old as the universe itself. The youngest known galaxy is estimated by astronomers to have originated about 500 million years ago.

Galaxies can join together into groups of a hundred or less, bound together by their mutual gravitational attraction. Clusters, which are larger structures, can hold thousands of galaxies.. Superclusters are arrangements of groups and clusters that are not restricted by gravity. The cosmic web of matter in the universe is made up of large-scale structures such as superclusters, voids, and galaxies’ “walls”. For more information checkout our blog on Galaxies: Everything you need to know

Our Milky Way galaxy

Telescopes arranged in a straight line at Bhandardara,  Maharashtra on the backdrop of beautiful milky way band rising towards the eastern horizon
Milkyway’s core from our Bhandardara site

After getting a brief idea about Galaxies, we focus on our home galaxy called the Milky Way. This galaxy is spiral and has a stellar disc that extends over 100,000 light-years. Earth is situated almost halfway from the galactic center along one of its spiral arms. It takes our solar system 240 million years to complete a single orbit around the Milky Way.

The Milky Way earned its name because, from Earth, it seems to be a thin, milky strip of light arcing over the whole sky. The Local Group, which consists of about 50 galaxies, includes the Milky Way. From dwarf galaxies, which are tiny galaxies with a few billion stars, to Andromeda, our closest massive galactic neighbor, its components vary in size.

The Local Group sits just off the edge of the Virgo cluster and is part of the Laniakea  supercluster.

The Shiva and Shakti

One focus of modern astrophysics  is to understand how massive galaxies, such as our Milky Way, formed and evolved. The European Space Agency’s Gaia space telescope has unveiled two streams of stars, named Shiva and Shakti, that have significantly advanced our understanding of the Milky Way’s origins.

Planar view of the milky way galaxy showing its span over light years from the core to the edges and position of our own star sun from the bulgy core, extended disc with star wraps outwards
An artist’s impression of our Milky Way galaxy. (Photo: ESA)

The research’s principal investigator, Khyati Malhan of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) in Heidelberg, Germany, expressed surprise at the discovery of these old structures. The discovery was made feasible, in part, by the calculations made available by Gaia’s studies of the orbits, contents, and compositions of individual stars within the Milky Way.

Despite their similarities, Shiva and Shakti are not the same. Compared to Shiva stars, Shakti stars circle in a more circular pattern and a little bit further from the Milky Way’s core. The streams bear a suitable name, as they represent the creation of the universe and are named for a Hindu holy couple.

This discovery provides insight into the early stages of the Milky Way’s formation, indicating that it began as a series of lengthy, asymmetrical filaments of gas and dust that eventually came together to form stars and the galaxy as we know it today. Future releases of Gaia data might provide more information about these elements.

Come along with us as we solve the cosmic puzzles! If you’re eager to delve deeper into the wonders of space, check out the resources provided in our blog or explore other reputable sources to expand your knowledge. Together, let’s continue our journey of exploration into the vast expanse of the universe!