space science

how long does it take for our solar system to rotate around the Milky Way galaxy?

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  1. how long does it take for our solar system to rotate around the Milky Way galaxy?

    Many people have no idea that the Earth moves at all, thinking that the Sun revolves around the Earth. The motion of our Earth through space is really very complex. It rotates, or spins, on its axis; it moves in a near circular path, or revolves, around our Sun; it wobbles about its center; and it sinuates and nods. All the time it is undergoing these spacial motions, its internal masses are swirling, heaving, and drifting. Lets start at the beginning. Lets explore.
    Our Earth is an approximately spherical body, actually an oblate spheroid of ~3963 miles equatorial radius and ~3950 miles polar radius, (Astonomical Almanac-1997, pg. E88) rotating 360 degrees on its axis, once in 23 hours- 56 minutes 4.091 seconds, the sidereal day. The 24 hour clock day that we experience daily, the mean solar day, or the synodic day, is the period of time that it takes for the same point on the earth's surface to cross the line joining the earth and the sun. The axis of rotation passes through the center of the earth and pierces its surface at the north and south poles. The rotation of the earth on its axis from west to east in a period of one day makes all celestial bodies, sun, moon, planets and stars, appear to turn around the earth from east to west, in the same period. Therefore the rotation of the earth is counterclockwise, looking down at the north pole. As you stand n the equator, you are actually moving at a rotational speed of ~1038 MPH relative to the Earth's axis.
    Our earth also completes one 360 degree revolution, or orbit, around the Sun in a period of ~365-1/4 days, or what we call, a year. The orbit of the Earth is elliptical in shape with the closest distance from the Sun being ~91,408,000 miles and the farthest distance being ~94,513,000 miles. The mean distance of the Earth from the Sun is often quoted as being 93,000,000 miles. The earth's axis is tilted to its orbital plane at an angle of ~23 1/2 degrees. The revolution of the earth in its orbit around the Sun makes the Sun appear to shift gradually eastward among the stars in the course of the year. Therefore the revolution of the Earth around the Sun is also counterclockwise, as viewed from above the Earth's north pole.The apparant path of the Sun among the stars is called the ecliptic. The eastward motion of the Earth in its orbit, along the ecliptic, is approximately 1 degree per day. The mean translational speed of the earth in its orbit is ~66,660 MPH.
    Our solar system, as a whole, is within the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun being ~30,000 light years (one light year is the distance light travels in one year, ~5.89x10^12 miles) from the center of the galaxy and, with its family of planets, rotating about the center of the galaxy at a speed of ~563,000 mph.. Even at this tremendous speed, our solar system requires about 200-220 million years to complete one revolution within the galaxy. Our whole galaxy appears to be hurtling through space at a speed of over one million miles per hour. Hold on to your hat!
    Amazing isn't it? Just think, at any instant of time, you, standing on the equator on the side of the Earth away from the Sun, are moving through the emptiness of space at a combined speed of 1038 + 66,600 + 563,000 + 1,000,000 = ~1,630,628 MPH. What a breeze !

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