Earth's Location in the Solar System

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  • 0:00 Where Do We Live?
  • 0:45 Solar System & Milky Way
  • 2:05 Center of the Universe
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After watching this video, you will be able to describe Earth's place in the solar system, the galaxy and the universe as a whole. A short quiz will follow.

Where Do We Live?

Where are you right now? No seriously, where are you? You might answer by saying you're at your desk or sitting in front of a computer. Or maybe you'll answer by saying which town you live in. But the question is more difficult than it sounds.

'Where are you?' can be answered in a lot of different ways; this is because everything is relative. Where am I relative to my printer? I'm about two meters north of it. Where am I relative to my closet? Two meters south. I'm also in a city, in a country, on a continent, on a planet, in a solar system, in a particular part of a galaxy, which is also in a particular location inside the wider universe.

So, let's break this question down a bit. Where is the Earth in the solar system, galaxy and finally, the universe?

The Solar System and Milky Way

In our solar system, Earth is the third planet from the Sun. Closer to the Sun are Mercury and Venus. Further from the Sun are Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The Earth, the Sun, and all the planets are held together by gravity, the same force that pulls you towards the Earth.

Our solar system is one of possibly a hundred billion gravitationally-bound planetary systems that form part of the Milky Way galaxy. All of those planetary systems orbit the bright center of the Milky Way. Our solar system is not in a particularly unusual or special location in the Milky Way. In fact, we're kind of on the outer edge of the spiral - the suburbs of the galaxy if you will.

Galaxies and Clusters

The Milky Way galaxy is part of a cluster of nearby galaxies called the Local Group; this galaxy group is thought to contain more than 54 galaxies that orbit around each other in various paths. The paths aren't flat, like the planets in the solar system, but many of them are pretty stable.

Others are not so stable. For example, the Andromeda galaxy is heading towards our Milky Way on a collision course and is set to collide with us in about 3.75 billion years.

Center of the Universe

The universe contains many galaxies in many clusters (at least 100 billion galaxies), though it's very difficult to count them. So, where is our galaxy cluster in relation to the rest of the universe?

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