Open main menu

Wikipedia β


astronomical structure
Pinwheel galaxy, one of the example of galaxy. The shape of this galaxy is Spiral
For the automobile, see Ford Galaxy.

A galaxy is a huge group of many stars and space dust. The word "galaxy" is taken from the Greek word galaxias, where this word goes to the Milky Way, our galaxy.

Gravity holds galaxies together against the general expansion of the universe.[1] In effect, the expansion of the universe takes place between groups of galaxies, not inside those groups.

This is because the mass of a galaxy holds the galaxy together, and the same applies to the groups of galaxies, such as our Local Group where Milky Way is located. The gravitation is produced by the matter and energy in a galaxy or group of galaxies. Everything in a galaxy moves around a centre of mass, which is also an effect of gravity.

There are various types of galaxies: elliptical, spiral and lenticular galaxies, which can all be with or without bars. Then there are irregular galaxies. All galaxies exist inside the universe. There are probably over 170 billion (1.7x1011) galaxies within the observable universe.[2][3]



There are galaxies of different sizes. Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million[1][4] (107) stars up to giants with a hundred trillion[1][5] (1014) stars, all orbiting the galaxy's center of mass. Galaxies may contain many multiple star systems, star clusters, and various interstellar clouds. The Sun is one of the stars in the Milky Way galaxy; the Solar System includes the Earth and all the other objects that orbit the Sun.

Star clusters are not galaxies, they are inside galaxies. Globular clusters are spherical-shape star cluster which are part of the outer halo of the Milky Way. One of the largest (and oldest) known star clusters, Messier 15, has several million stars, packed closely together, with a black hole at its centre. The stars are too closely packed to get an accurate count, but it certainly has more stars than some of the smaller galaxies.

Within galaxy clusters, galaxies move relative to other galaxies. They can and do collide. When this happens, the stars generally move past each other, but gas clouds and dust interact, and can form a burst of new stars. Gravity pulls both galaxies into somewhat new shapes, forming bars, rings or tail-like structures.

NGC 2997, a spiral galaxy in the constellation Antila, produce new stars at a rate of 1 or 2 stars per year.

Many galaxies also continue to form new generations of stars. The Milky Way, and all spiral shaped galaxies like it (see right side image of NGC 2997), produce new stars at a rate of one or two stars per year. This star formation happens in the vast interstellar clouds that account for about 1% to 10% of the mass of these galaxies. Globular star clusters, on the other hand, are not currently forming stars because this activity happened billions of years ago and then stopped once all of the gas and dust clouds were used up.

In the astronomical literature, the word 'Galaxy' with a capital G is used for our galaxy, the Milky Way. The billions of other galaxies are just written as 'galaxy' with a lowercase g. The term Milky Way first came out in the English language in a poem by Chaucer.

"See yonder, lo, the Galaxyë
 Which men clepeth the Milky Wey,
 For hit is whyt".[1][6]

When William Herschel wrote his catalogue of deep sky objects, he used the name spiral nebula for objects like the Andromeda Galaxy. 200 years later astronomers discovered that they are made of stars as the Milky Way is, so nebula is now only used for diffuse structures within a galaxy.


Hubble Sequence

There are 2 main kinds of galaxies, Spiral galaxy and Elliptical galaxy. The models used for describe them are the Hubble Sequence.

Spiral galaxyEdit

NGC 1300 are an example of barred spiral galaxy

A Spiral Galaxy is a galaxy that has a spiral shape. Most of the galaxies in the universe observed by astronomers are spiral galaxies (about 77%)[7].

They are divided into two :

  • Barred spiral galaxy (classified as "SB")
  • Unbarred spiral galaxy (classified as "SA")

NGC 1300 and NGC 1672 are example of barred spiral galaxy. Menawhile, Whirlpool galaxy and Messier 81 are example of unbarred spiral galaxy.

The characteristic of spiral galaxy mostly are disk-shaped rotating, spiral arms, and Bulge in the galactic core. The spiral arms are where new hot stars are produce. "Bulge" has old stars that located in the galaxy core. This feature is common to the most spiral galaxies.

Elliptical galaxyEdit

ESO 325-G004 are an example of elliptical galaxy.

An Elliptical galaxy is a galaxy that has a ellipsoid (3D of ellipse) shape. This type of galaxy are dominant in universe, especially in galaxy clusters. The shape range from circle, ellipse, and cigar-shaped. In Hubble Sequence, this shape can be represented as class :

  • E0 (circle-shape)
  • E53 (ellipse-shape)
  • E7 (cigar-shaped)

Elliptical galaxy can have a large range size. The giant elliptical galaxy can be over a more 1 million light year and the smallest (know as "dwarf elliptical galaxy") are less than one-tenth the size of Milky Way[8] The size of an elliptical galaxy can be measured as an effective radius. The mass of elliptical galaxy also massively, giant elliptical galaxy can have mass of 1013 solar masses.[9]

Other kinds of galaxiesEdit

Lenticular galaxy NGC 5308

The simple definition of Lenticular galaxy is a galaxy seen in a disc shape. Determining the shape of a Lenticular galaxy is difficult because the shape can be between Spiral galaxy and Elliptical galaxy. The shape can be known by looking at the bulge of the Galactic center. If the bulge is very bright, it is a spiral galaxy[10]

Related pagesEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Cox, Brian; Cohen, Andrew (2011). Wonders of the Universe. HarperCollins. p. 24. ISBN 9780007395828. 
  2. Gott, J. Richard, III; et al. 2005. A map of the Universe. The Astrophysical Journal 624 (2): 463–484.
  3. Mackie, Glen 2002. [1]
  4. ESO 2000: [2]
  5. Wilford, John Noble 1990. "Sighting of largest galaxy hints at clues on the clustering of matter". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-06
  6. Geoffrey Chaucer. The House of Fame, ~1380."Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 2007-01-03. 
  7. "Spiral Galaxy Facts & Definition". Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  8. "Elliptical Galaxies". Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  9. "Elliptical Galaxy | COSMOS". Retrieved 2018-01-28. 
  10. "Lenticular Galaxies". Retrieved 2018-01-30. 
  12. Uson, Juan M. et al (October 1990). "The central galaxy in Abell 2029 – an old supergiant". Science 250 (4980): 539–540. doi:10.1126/science.250.4980.539. 

Other websitesEdit