In the early 1990s, southern California was hit by a major power outage. During the outage, a number of people in Los Angeles called 911 to report very strange, glowing clouds in the night sky. It was something the worried callers had never seen. With the acid-rain scare still in many people’s minds, their concern was understandable.
Of course, anyone who has lived outside of a city or has gone camping knows what those strange clouds in the Los Angeles sky were. No glowing acid rain here—it was the Milky Way! They were seeing an incredible flowing band of stars, gas and dust stretching across the entire sky for the first time in their lives.
When you see that band of stars, it’s clear why we call our galaxy the Milky Way. Many other cultures have their own names for it, including “The Way the Dog Ran Away” (Cherokee), “Ganges River of Heaven” (Hindi), “The Road to Santiago” (Spanish) and “Hay Merchants Way” (Arabic).