Our galactic neighbourhood, the Milky Way, shines on new coins from the Czech Mint, and the Austrian Mint

There’s no place like home! Our solar system sits within the Milky Way, a barred spiral galaxy approximately 150-200,000 light years in diameter. It’s part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, itself a component of the Laniakea Supercluster. Staggeringly, the Laniakea Supercluster holds over 100,000 galaxies and is over 520 million light years across. Despite the Milky Way barely registering in that huge mass, it’s a giant in its own right, containing an estimated 100-400 billion stars and an equal number of planets!

For those lucky enough to see it in the night sky, this stunning natural wonder is awe-inspiring and science continues to chip away at what we don’t fully understand. Something we do know, is that it isn’t flat, but warped, curving in different directions towards its edge. The Austrian Mint has tried to replicate that with its own coin, struck in a bidirectional domed shape, which does look pretty cool. The rest of the design looks good, with a colour depiction of our galaxy on the reverse, and a ‘map’ of it, including the positions of our own location, the Orion Arm, marked out. This coin actually came out last year, and was the first in a three-coin set. The latest issue is also depicted below, The Black Hole, and is deeply concave on the reverse side. A really well done pair of coins.

Newer to market is the second in the Czech Mints dedicated 12-coin ‘Milky Way’ series. It’s actually a title not really reflective of the other coins to come (Halley’s Comet, first Czechoslovakian in space, first artificial satellite, etc.) but this particular issue is bang on target. A more traditional design, with a simple colour image of the galaxy in the centre, taken from a watercolour painting rather than a CGI render. The obverse is a mix of the more fantastical, incorporating crop circles and a UFO.

Both the Austrian and Czech Mint ranges comes boxed, with certificates. The Austrian set has a good-looking box to hold all three issues, available for a fairly hefty €64.50, while the Czech Mint series has a gatefold binder with holders for each encapsulated coin, accompanied by lots of information on each one. That sells for €40.00. All four coins depicted here are available now, with some sold out at the mint, so you’ll have to hit the aftermarket.

Austrian Mint: “The Uncharted Universe”

MINTS DESCRIPTION

Consisting of three coins, the likes of which have never previously existed, The Uncharted Universe takes us to the deepest depths of the universe and gives us a fascinating glimpse of three physical-astronomical phenomena. The S-shaped first coin in the series, The Milky Way, is curved in a similar way to our home galaxy. The story it tells about the cosmos also features surprising twists and turns.

The ancient Greeks associated the milky band of light that we see when we look into the clear night sky with Heracles, who as a baby sucked on the goddess Hera’s breast so hard that she withdrew it from his mouth, spilling her milk over the sky. The interpretation became more scientific in 1610 when, with the aid of a telescope, Galileo Galilei discovered that the Milky Way actually consists of countless individual stars. By that time Nicolaus Copernicus had already debunked the long-held belief that the earth, rather than the sun, was the centre of the universe, but Galileo was also to show that the sun was just one of a multitude of stars in the Milky Way. The world view was shaken again in 1920 when Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one among many galaxies. Although this made the earth seem increasingly insignificant, the smaller the planet felt, the greater our knowledge of outer space became and the more we began to understand our physical place in the cosmos.

The combination of the convex and the concave surfaces on the coin’s obverse results in an S-shaped silver surface upon which the Milky Way is depicted. The angular dimensions of the galactic coordinate system show the position of the sun in relation to the rest of our galaxy. The position of the Orion Arm, in which our solar system is located, is also marked. So are the positions of the astronomical phenomena Cygnus X-1 and Crab Pulsar, which play a special role on the other two coins in the series. The coin’s reverse features the same image of the spiralled Milky Way, though in spectacular, colour-printed form.

Czech Mint: “The Milky Way”

MINTS DESCRIPTION

The Milky Way is the galaxy in which our Sun and solar system are located. From Earth, it can be seen as a silvery band of merging stars across the sky, which is how it got its name. In reality, however, it takes the form of a central bar to which two spiral arms are connected. The diameter of our home galaxy is up to 200,000 light-years across. It is estimated to contain 400 billion stars and at least 100 billion planets, but the vast majority of its mass is made up of mysterious and invisible dark matter.

The reverse side of the coin was dedicated by medal maker Asamat Baltaev, DiS., to the depiction of the Milky Way in vivid colours achieved by colourization technology. No photographs or computer graphics were used as the subject – the author of the coin created an original watercolour painting. The embossed relief shows stylized space objects – stars, planets and satellites. The composition is closed by the English inscription MILKY WAY. The obverse side of the coin humorously presents crop circles and a flying saucer, which illuminates the portrait of Elizabeth II. Together with the Queen’s name, the year of issue 2022 and the nominal value of 1 DOLLAR (NZD).

SPECIFICATION
COIN Austrian Mint Czech Mint
DENOMINATION 20 Euro (Austria) $1 NZD (Niue)
COMPOSITION 22.42 g of 0.925 silver 0.999 silver
DIMENSIONS 34.0 mm 37.0 mm
FINISH Proof Proof
MODIFICATIONS Colour, curved strike Colour
MINTAGE 30,000 2,500
BOX / C.O.A. Yes / Yes Yes / Yes
CZECH MINT
AUSTRIAN MINT