Milky Way Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jeremy Cook

I have been teaching elementary school for 16 years. I have extensive experience in lesson and curriculum development and educational technology.

If you started counting stars in our galaxy, you could be counting for more than 50 years. The Milky Way is the galaxy that we live in and it contains a lot of stuff, including billions of stars. This lesson will teach you the basics of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

What is a Galaxy?

A galaxy is a large cluster of stars, planets, star clusters, gas and dust all gathered and held together by gravity. Amazingly, scientists estimate that there could be over 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That means if you tried to count them all, you couldn't do it even if you spent your entire life counting! Galaxies come in different shapes and sizes. Some are small, called dwarf galaxies, and contain 10 million stars, while others are massive, holding more than 100 trillion stars. They can have different shapes too. They can be spiral, like the Milky Way, elliptical, lenticular (disc shaped) or irregular.

This spiral galaxy is what scientists believe the Milky Way looks similar to
Spiral Galaxy

The Milky Way

The Milky Way is a large galaxy that has a spiral shape. Its actual shape is called a barred spiral galaxy. There is a bar in the center and many arms that extend out from the center. Our own solar system lies in one of the arms of the Milky Way, making a complete rotation in around 200 million years. The center of the Milky Way cannot be seen due to a heavy amount of gasses, however, scientists believe that the center is a super massive black hole. The black hole may be the source of gravity that holds the galaxy together. The Milky Way is part of a cluster of galaxies near each other that is called the Local Group. The local group also includes another large galaxy called the Andromeda Galaxy. The Milky Way is about 13 billion years old and contains over 200 billion stars. To imagine how big the entire galaxy is, you'd have to imagine that light would take 100 thousand years to pass from one side to another.

The position of the Sun in relation to the rest of the Milky Way
Milky Way Grid

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