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Characteristics of Stars' Orbits in the Galaxy

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  • 0:01 Orbital Tendencies of Stars
  • 0:40 Orbits in the…
  • 2:08 Orbits in the Disk of…
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will explore the spherical component and disk of the galaxy to find out what orbital tendencies stars and star clusters have within each section of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The Orbital Tendencies of Stars

I've heard the argument that our planet has way too many people quite a few times. It's at over 7 billion people right now! But that's a paltry amount compared to how many stars are found in our Milky Way galaxy, a whopping 200 billion! But these stars are not located in the same place. Our galaxy, like our world, is split into different parts; and like different places on Earth have people that behave differently due to unique cultures, stars behave differently in each area of our galaxy. You'll see what I mean in this lesson on stellar orbits in our galaxy.

The Orbits in the Spherical Component

The picture-perfect scenario of how humans and human cultures evolved has the notion that we as a species originated in one place, in one area, and then fragmented, if you will, to different parts of the world with time. This fragmentation led to the development of sometimes seemingly random features to each subgroup: unique looks, unique cultures, languages, tendencies, and so on.

When our galaxy developed, one hypothesis states that it too developed from one place, one big cloud of turbulent gas. That cloud of gas, from which stars formed, eventually fragmented under the force of gravity just like our very early ancestors surely had a driving force for their own fragmentation out of Africa. Since the gas was turbulent, the small clouds developed random velocities. Thus, the stars and star clusters that formed from the fragments of the original cloud developed unique features.

Namely, they had orbits that varied quite a bit in shape. Some developed circular orbits, but most had elliptical ones, sometimes highly elliptical. Additionally, the orbits they did have were tilted at random angles to the disk of the galaxy. All this resulted in a spherical cloud of stars, something we call the spherical component, or halo and bulge, of our galaxy. The halo is a spherical cloud of stars, star clusters, and little gas or dust.

The Orbits in the Disk of the Galaxy

With time, the disk component of our galaxy developed when the remaining gas collapsed into a pancake-like shape. The disk component is the disk of our galaxy, the components within the plane of the galaxy. When this collapse occurred, the stars and the globular clusters in the halo were left behind in its wake. In the disk, things are different compared to the halo.

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