It has spawned a host of songs from crooners to alternative rock bands. One of the best loved chocolate bars in the United Kingdom is named after it. Yet how much to we really know about the Milky Way and just how important is it?
We could be close to many answers about the galaxy thanks to a new satellite named Gaia, being launched by the European Space Agency.
"One fundamental step to understand our universe is to understand our closer universe, which is the galaxy," explained Guiseppe Sarri who is the project manager of ESA’s Gaia project.
Gaia will scan the sky with powerful new eyes, mapping the Milky Way in unprecedented detail. It will help produce a detailed 3D image of the galaxy, something which has never been done before.