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|Milky Way |
The spiral galaxy that contains our solar system. Made up of an estimated two hundred billion stars or more, it is seen from Earth as an irregular band of hazy light across the night sky. The solar system is located in one of the revolving spiral arms, about 50 light-years north of the galactic plane and some 27,700 light-years from the galaxy's center, which lies in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. It takes approximately 250 million years for the solar system to orbit the galactic center, which is believed to contain a massive black hole. The Milky Way measures about 100,000 light-years in diameter and is the second largest galaxy, after the Andromeda Galaxy, in the cluster known as the Local Group. See also spiral galaxy.