Approximate orbit of the Sun (yellow circle) around the Galactic Centre
The galactic year, also known as a cosmic year, is the duration of time required for the Solar System to orbit once around the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Estimates of the length of one orbit range from 225 to 250 million terrestrial years. The Solar System is traveling at an average speed of 828,000 km/h (230 km/s) or 514,000 mph (143 mi/s) within its trajectory around the galactic center, which is about one 1300th of the speed of light—a speed at which an object could circumnavigate the Earth's equator in 2 minutes and 54 seconds.
The galactic year provides a conveniently usable unit for depicting cosmic and geological time periods together. By contrast, a "billion-year" scale does not allow for useful discrimination between geologic events, and a "million-year" scale requires some rather large numbers.
Timeline of the universe and Earth's history in galactic years
The following list assumes that 1 galactic year is 225 million years.
Visualisation of the orbit of the Sun (yellow dot and white curve) around the Galactic Centre (GC) in the last galactic year. The red dots correspond to the positions of the stars studied by the European Southern Observatory in a monitoring programme.
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