Video: Guide to our Galaxy

November 22, 2013

This virtual journey shows the different components that make up our home galaxy, the Milky Way, which contains about a hundred billion stars.

It starts at the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way and with the that orbit around it, before zooming out through the central Galactic Bulge, which hosts about ten billion stars.

The journey continues through a younger population of stars in the stellar disc, home to most of the Milky Way's stars, and which is embedded in a slightly larger gaseous disc. Stars in the disc are arranged in a spiral arm pattern and orbit the centre of the Galaxy.

The discs and bulge are embedded in the stellar halo, a spherical structure that consists of a large number of – the oldest population of stars in the Galaxy – as well as many isolated stars. An even larger halo of invisible dark matter is inferred by its gravitational effect on the motions of stars in the Galaxy.

Looking at a face-on view of the Galaxy we see the position of our Sun, located at a distance of about 26 000 light-years from the Galactic Centre.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Finally, the extent of the stellar survey conducted by ESA's Hipparcos mission is shown, which surveyed more than 100 000 stars up to 300 light-years away from the Sun. In comparison, ESA's Gaia survey will study one billion stars out to 30 000 light-years away.

Explore further: Pinwheeling across the sky

Related Stories

Pinwheeling across the sky

June 11, 2013

( —The face-on Pinwheel spiral galaxy is seen at ultraviolet wavelengths in this image taken by ESA's XMM-Newton space telescope.

Inseparable galactic twins

July 3, 2013

( —Looking towards the constellation of Triangulum (The Triangle), in the northern sky, lies the galaxy pair MRK 1034. The two very similar galaxies, named PGC 9074 and PGC 9071, are close enough to one another ...

Hubble sees stars fleeing a cosmic crash

August 19, 2013

( —Astronomical pictures sometimes deceive us with tricks of perspective. Right in the center of this image, two spiral galaxies appear to be suffering a spectacular collision, with a host of stars appearing to ...

Hubble view of a special spiral galaxy

October 24, 2013

( —The image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, shows part of NGC 3621, an unusual spiral galaxy located over 20 million light-years away in the constellation of Hydra (The Water Snake).

Hubble views an old and mysterious cluster

November 14, 2013

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the best ever image of the globular cluster Messier 15, a gathering of very old stars that orbits the centre of the Milky Way. This glittering cluster contains over 100 000 ...

Recommended for you

Hubble captures a galactic waltz

November 26, 2015

This curious galaxy—only known by the seemingly random jumble of letters and numbers 2MASX J16270254+4328340—has been captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope dancing the crazed dance of a galactic merger. The ...

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nov 24, 2013
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Mr Som-o
not rated yet Nov 28, 2013
Is anyone else having a problem playing this video?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.