Space Talk: What is a Galaxy?
Space Talk: What is a Galaxy?
You already know that we live on the planet Earth, and you probably already know that Earth is located inside a solar system…but where is the solar system? If you were to think of the solar system as a community, and the community as a part of a larger city, then you might begin to grasp the concept of a galaxy, though it is far more complicated than that. We’re going to start with the most important aspect, which is the Earth, since we’re all living on it.
Earth: Our Home
Our educational dinosaur toys are a great lesson in terrestrial life, but sometimes it is important to go beyond and see what’s in the celestial neighborhood. We live on the Earth, which is a planet - one among seven others in the solar system, all of which orbit the sun, a star in the center. Even though the sun might seem like the largest object in the galaxy - surprise: it’s just one of billions! As you look at the sky on a clear night you will be able to see a portion of the stars that comprise the Milky Way Galaxy, even though they are millions of miles away. Yes, Earth is just a small part of a much larger galaxy, and that’s just the beginning of the story.
|Safariology Solar System Set||Display the planets in an included acetate tray|
The Big Question: What is a Galaxy?
You came here to have a question answered: what is a galaxy? Essentially, a galaxy is a collection of a lot of different things including, gas, dust, stars, planets, solar systems, rocks, asteroids, and more. It sounds like a huge mess when you look at it from far away, but really, a galaxy is simply organized chaos and we’re a teeny, tiny part of it.
What Holds a Galaxy Together?
A galaxy sits in space, but what is it that keeps it spinning and what keeps planets from floating out of it? The answer is simple: gravity. In space, two objects are attracted to one another, and the larger object usually asserts dominance. Gravity is what keeps us tethered to the earth and it is what keeps the stars aligned in the sky. To maintain the status quo on tiny planet Earth, a careful balance must be maintained which is, of course, up to the universe itself. Amazingly, we have very little control over the situation!
Where Are We?
In terms of location, we are sitting in one of the outer arms of the Milky Way galaxy near its neighbor the Andromeda Galaxy. Our Galaxy, like others, is held together by gravity, most of which is facilitated by a black hole sitting at the center of it all. There are some theories which state that eventually the black hole, referred to as ‘The Galactic Bar’, will swallow the Milky Way Galaxy in its entirety, bringing and end to life as we know it, but this will only happen over the course of millions of years. There is even a possibility that the Milky Way Galaxy will eventually collide with another galaxy, likely Andromeda, but we may not even notice due to the scale of the event. Don’t worry: we won’t be around to see it. Not only that, there are plenty of other galaxies in the universe, so life will never truly come to an end.
How Many Galaxies Are There?
You know what? That’s a good question, but it’s also impossible to say. At one point, a photo was taken of our universe by the Hubble Space Telescope, and it revealed thousands of small galaxies in the sky. Surprisingly, the area photographed was merely the size of a postage stamp – can you imagine how many galaxies there must be in the entirety of the universe? Some galaxies are very much like ours in that they are spiral shaped and then there are others that are more of an orb shape. Still, there are others that maintain an irregular shape and appear to be blobs hanging in the night sky. The universe is as diverse as the people on Earth and it is changing every single day.
While educational dinosaur toys and animal figures are fun to play with, there is so much more beyond the boundaries of our blue sky. Space holds endless wonders, and perhaps one day we will travel beyond our sky and take in all that it has to offer. For right now, however, we have little choice but to turn our lights off and sit on the ground, staring upward to behold the majesty of the heavens as they move ever forward like celestial waves, taking us along for the ride.
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