Milky Way, the galaxy of which the sun and solar system are a part, seen as a broad band of light arching across the night sky from horizon to horizon; if not blocked by the horizon, it would be seen as a circle around the entire sky. Although its motion is not readily apparent, the entire galaxy is rotating about the Milky Way's center. Relative to the universe, the galaxy is moving at a speed of c.370 mi per sec (c.590 km per sec) in the same direction that the constellation Leo lies relative to the earth; it is also moving at c.60 mi per sec (c.100 km per sec) relative to the center of mass of the Local Group of galaxies. The sun, traveling at a speed of c.150 mi per sec (c.240 km per sec) in a nearly circular orbit, takes some 230 million years to complete one revolution.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
Sections in this article:
- Size and Shape of the Milky Way
- Stellar Populations and Galactic Evolution
- Visual Characteristics of the Milky Way
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Astronomy: General