Milky Way, a band of faint light which stretches across the sky from horizon to horizon. The light is produced by a multitude of stars so distant or so small that they can be distinguished only by the telescope. It is brighter in the southern than in the northern sky. In one part of its course it divides into two branches. Most of the stars in the Milky Way are of less than eighth magnitude. Among them are many star-clusters, but very few nebulae. In the constellation of Hercules is a most striking star-cluster, estimated to have between one and two thousand stars. The Milky Way was regarded in ancient times as the pathway of the gods, strewn with golden sands. The Indians speak of it as the Milkmaid’s Path. Very frequently it is called the Galaxy, Greek for Milky Way. Herschel, a profound student of this subject, suggested that the galaxy is a natural plane of reference for the stellar universe, just as the ecliptic is a natural plane of reference for the solar system.