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How old is the Sun in Galactic years?

February 27, 2008 on 2:23 pm | In Astronomy, Gravity, Physics, Q & A, Solar System |

The Moon goes around the Earth, the Earth goes around the Sun, and the Sun goes around the center of the Milky Way. We know the Moon takes about 4 weeks to make its trip around the Earth, and that causes the Moon phases:

We also know that the Earth takes one year to go around the Sun, and that causes the seasons:

We also know that the Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years, which means it has gone around the Sun about 4.5 billion times. Well, now I ask the question(s):

How long does it take the Sun to go around the Milky Way? How many times has it done that so far, and how many times will this happen before the Sun finally dies?

Well, we know that we travel in (roughly) a circle around the center of the Milky Way, and that our radius from the center is about 8 kiloparsecs, or roughly 26,000 light years. That means our Solar System (including the Sun) needs to travel a distance of 1.55 x 1018 kilometers to go around the Milky Way once. If we know how fast the Sun is moving, we can figure out how long a Galactic Year is. Well, we can both measure and calculate its velocity to be 220 kilometers/second, and so we can just do the math, knowing that there are 31,556,952 seconds in a Gregorian Year, and we find that it takes about 223 million years to make one galactic year.

So, if the Sun is 4.5 billion years old, that makes it about 20 galactic years old. If the Sun has a total lifetime of around 10 billion years, then it has a total galactic age of around 42 galactic years.

What? Did I just say the answer is 42?! Well, this means that one possible question is “What is the Sun’s lifetime in Galactic Years?”


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  1. […] Posts Carnival of Space #43: Oscar EditionHow old is the Sun in Galactic years?How did Life on Earth Originate?Q & A: Why is the Microwave Background so Uniform?Q & A: What is […]

    Pingback by Carnival of Space #43: Oscar Edition | Starts With A Bang! — February 27, 2008 #

  2. […] We geven de leeftijd van mensen weer in jaren en zoals we weten is een jaar de periode dat de Aarde √©√©n keertje om de Zon draait. De Zon zelf draait ook weer ergens omheen, namelijk het centrum van de Melkweg, dus interessant is om te kijken hoe lang zo’n omloop duurt en hoe oud de Zon zal worden in ‘galactische jaren’ gerekend. De afstand Zon-centrum Melkweg is volgens metingen 26.000¬†¬Ī 1.400¬†lichtjaar. Da’s 245.980.800.000.000.000 km. Dat weer¬†keer 2ŌÄ levert een omtrek op van 1,5447 x 1018 km op. De snelheid van de Zon om het Melkwegcentrum is ongeveer 220 km per seconde, dus 6.937.920.000 km per jaar. Kortom, de Zon doet er 222.654.545 aardse jaren over om √©√©n keer om het melkwegstelsel te draaien, zeg 223 miljoen jaren. Zo’n jaar wordt¬†wel een galactisch of kosmisch jaar genoemd. De Zon is momenteel zo’n 4,5 miljard jaar oud, dus 20 galactische jaren. Naar verwachting zal de Zon zo’n tien miljard jaar oud worden en dat levert een verwachtte ouderdom van… 42 galactische jaren! 42, Mmmmm, was dat niet het ultieme antwoord op alles? We pakken het transgalactisch liftershandboek er maar eventjes bij! Bron: Starts with a Bang!¬† […]

    Pingback by Zal de Zon 42 ‘jaar’ worden?bijAstroblogs — February 28, 2008 #

  3. Wow! My article has just been roughly translated into Dutch! Look at these new words! Milky Way = Melkweg. Galactic years = galactische jaren. miljard jaar oud = million years old! lichtjaar = light year! This is awesome, Zal de Zon; thanks for bringing this to a new part of the world!

    Comment by ethan — March 2, 2008 #

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  9. If the sol system orbits the galaxy, in a circle/up and down orbit.
    how many times in a galactic year would the Sol system cross the elliptical plane.
    and what would be the time frame from
    1 upwards to 1 downwards section of the orbit.

    Comment by q — June 17, 2009 #

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  12. hey has the sun , and in turn the rest of the earth and solar system ever existed in the exact same place? I mean if the sun has done 20 revolutions so far what is the variance in it’s orbit?

    Can the trajectory of our solar system be plotted in any meaningful way to be seen to pass through specific quandrants of space?

    Also what direction is really up? Does the direction up really even exist other than our perception of it

    Comment by Matt — April 24, 2010 #

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  15. […] As you know, humans are a relatively recent species, being roughly only some 200,000 years old (a minuscule fraction of our galactic year). […]

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