This animation shows the different components that make up our home galaxy, the Milky Way. It starts at the black hole at the core of the Milky Way and the stars that orbit around it, before zooming out through the central Galactic Bulge, which hosts about ten billion stars. The zoom continues through a younger population of stars in the stellar disc, the home to most of the Milky Way’s stars. The discs and bulge are embedded in the stellar halo, a spherical structure that consists of a large number of globular clusters. These are the oldest stars in the Galaxy. An even larger halo of invisible dark matter is believed to surround the Milky Way. Its gravitational effect is evident in the motions of stars in the Galaxy.
Finally, this ESA-porduced video shows the extent of the stellar survey conducted by ESA’s Hipparcos mission, which surveyed more than 100,000 stars as far as 300 light-years from the Sun. ESA’s Gaia survey is in the process of cataloging a billion stars up to 30,000 light-years away.
If you’re going hitchhiking, remember to take your towel.
Video Credit: ESA