Can we make a movie of the Milky Way galaxy's rotation? (Beginner)

With all of the pictures that have been obtained so far of this barred spiral galaxy we live in, is it possible to string together a video to show its rotation and movement compared to other galaxies? This would probably be a great illustration, helping people to understand our "place" in the Universe!

Motions on galactic scales take an incredibly long time, especially compared to the human lifetime. Moreover, the amount of time that our technology has allowed us to record images like this is incredibly small compared to the entire history of the Milky Way.

For instance, it takes the Sun (and our Solar System along with it) about 200 million years to go around the Galaxy. Your idea is a nice one, and it would be great if we could "show" astronomy to people in this way, but the time scales involved just aren't conducive to that.

Edit by Michael Lam on August 2, 2016: You can view simulations of spiral galaxies, such as this one, in which astronomers try to understand the dynamics of stars and gas and dark matter within a galaxy by solving complex physics equations on powerful supercomputers. The Milky Way will look something like this one. As for how our galaxy fits in with its neighbors, there is a great video here that shows the "nearby" cosmic map and the motions and clustering of the galaxies that are part of the map.

About the Author

Ann Martin

Ann Martin

Ann finished her PhD at Cornell in May 2011, and has been a Curious volunteer since 2006. For her dissertation, she studied the distribution of hydrogen-rich galaxies in the nearby Universe using data from the Arecibo Observatory. Since then, she has been working on science education and public outreach projects for NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA.

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