The Milky Way is a hazy band of light that can be seen encircling the night sky. This light comes from the stars that make up the Milky Way galaxy, the galaxy to which the sun and Earth belong. Galaxies are huge systems of stars separated from one another by largely empty space. Astronomers estimate that the Milky Way galaxy contains at least 100 billion stars and is about 100,000 light years in diameter. The galaxy is shaped like a compact disk with a central bulge, or nucleus, and spiral arms curving out from the center.