Whenever life gets you down, Mrs BrownAnd things seem hard or toughAnd people are stupid, obnoxious or daftAnd you feel that you’ve had quite enough.Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolvingAnd revolving at
nineten hundred and thirty seven miles an hourThat’s orbiting at nineteeneighteen point five miles a second, so it’s reckonedA sun that is the source of all our power.The sun and you and me and all the stars that you can seeAre moving at aeleven point eight million miles a dayIn an outer spiral arm at fortyfour hundred and ninety thousand miles an hourOf the galaxy we call the Milky Way.Our galaxy itself contains atwo to four hundred billion starsIt’s a hundred to a hundred and twenty thousand light years side to sideIt bulges in the middle fifteen to sixteen thousand light years thickBut out by us it’s just nine hundred to three thousand light years wide.We’re twenty six to thirty thousand light years from galactic central pointWe go ‘round every two hundred million yearsAnd our galaxy is only on of millions of billionsIn this amazing and expanding universe.The universe itself keeps on expanding and expandingIn all of the directions it can whizzAs fast as it can go, the speed of light you know TwelveEleven million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is.So remember when you’re feeling very small and insecureHow amazingly unlikely is your birthAnd pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space‘cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Taking a look at this I think we can all agree that Eric Idle is a genius; making a memorable and accurate (to within an order of magnitude) song about our galaxy adding his own special flare of comedy to a fantastic amount of information contained within its facts.
In places I have been pedantic, in others I have added the uncertainty range that we have deduced. It is amazing how little we actually know about our own galaxy but this song is a great place to start to bring the picture together.
Check out some of these links for the numbers we know about our galaxy.
The structure of the Milky Way - https://dept.astro.lsa.umich.edu/ugactivities/Labs/MWgalStruct/index.html
Our galaxy, the Milky Way - http://www.astro.caltech.edu/~george/ay20/Ay20-Lec16x.pdf
NASA world book, Galaxy - http://web.archive.org/web/20090412172631/http://mynasa.nasa.gov/worldbook/galaxy_worldbook.html
Monitoring stellar orbits around the Massive Black Hole in the Galactic center - http://arxiv.org/abs/0810.4674
IMAGE CREDIT: Jeff Ball taken from his blog http://www.earthandskyphoto.com/imported-20091124163944/2010/7/21/milky-way-over-balanced-rock.html