Galaxy Gazing: How Many Stars Are in Our Solar System?
If you ever need a break from the constantly moving hustle and bustle of your everyday life, all you need to do is go outside on a clear night. Looking up at the night sky you will see a universe of infinite possibilities and everything else will start to feel small.
But exactly how many stars are in our solar system? It may look like there are billions of stars in our solar system, but the truth might surprise you.
If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the universe we live in, keep reading. We’re going to break down our solar system and beyond!
What Exactly Makes Up Our Solar System?
To understand how many stars there are in our solar system, you have to understand the different components that make it up.
Our solar system starts with the sun. The sun is the largest thing in the solar system, taking up 99.8% of its mass. It’s the singular source of life for Earth and anywhere else life may be hiding!
Extending outward from the sun are the four inner planets: Mercury Venus, Earth, and Mars. All four of these planets look a lot like the earth in terms of composition. However, the Earth is the only planet out of the four inner planets that is the perfect distance from the sun to create life.
There’s an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter made up of tiny planets. When you hear about an asteroid colliding with a planet, this belt is where it came from.
Also, floating around out there between the sun and Jupiter is a massive collection of space junk.
Moving outwards, you come across the outer planets. These are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets all have thick layers of gas surrounding them and dozens of moons as well.
Far out beyond the last planets, there’s a cloud of icy bodies called the Oort Cloud, as well.
How Many Stars Are in Our Solar System?
So, how many stars are in our solar system? Just one! The sun is the only star in our solar system.
This is up for debate. Scientists argue over the existence of a second star that is only visible once every 32 million years. Some scientists believe that this possible second star spends most of the time hiding behind the Oort Cloud.
So, if there’s only one star in our solar system, what are we seeing when we look up at the night sky?
The Infinite Universe
What we’re seeing when we look up at the night sky is the Milky Way. The Milky Way is an enormous galaxy that holds our solar system and several hundred billion stars.
Scientists estimate that the Milky Way is 100,000 light-years wide and 10,000 light-years thick. Our solar system is inside the galaxy somewhere off to the side, not near the center but not near the edge either.
We know that the Earth rotates around the sun in orbit, but the sun also rotates around the center of the Milky Way as well. It takes the sun 250 million years to orbit the Milky Way once!
So, now that we know that all of the stars we see are well outside of our solar system, it’s time to put a spotlight on some of the most famous stars in our galaxy. Some of these stars have lore and legends attributed to them by cultures of the past!
There are some programs where you can buy your own star!
Polaris is also known as the north star. And while many people may think that it’s the brightest star in the sky, it doesn’t even rank in the top 40 in terms of brightness!
So, what makes the north star so popular?
Polaris is so special because the Earth’s axis is pointed directly at it. Polaris stays in the same spot all night long, just above the northern horizon, all year old. The other stars will move around, but Polaris will always be in roughly the same place.
If you can find Polaris, you can find due north.
Another popular star is Sirius. Sirius, not Polaris, gets the crown for the brightest star visible from Earth. Sirius flickers with several different colors, making it the rainbow star.
Sirius sits in Canis Major, a constellation known as the Greater Dog. It’s also sometimes called the Dog Star and even became the name of a popular werewolf character in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
Dippers Big and Small
No conversation about stars is complete without talking about the Big and Little Dippers. Once every 23 hours and 56 minutes, the Big and Little dippers circle Polaris.
The Big Dipper is made up of a bowl and a handle consisting of seven stars. It’s a small part of a larger constellation called the Ursa Major. It makes up the tail of the bear.
The Little Dipper makes up the Ursa Minor or the little bear.
Both of these constellations have rich lore that is deeply rooted in Greek myth and Indigenous folklore.
The Universe is Beautiful
Now you know how many stars are in our solar system. Just one! Or two, depending on which scientist you talk to.
However, there are over 100 billion stars in our galaxy. The number of stars in the universe beyond our galaxy is unknowable, a number so large that we couldn’t fathom it even if we tried.
If you liked this article and you’re interested in learning more about the world we live in, check back soon!
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