Types of Galaxies

A galaxy is a huge collection of gas, dust, and billions of stars all held together by gravity. All galaxies are made up of these same things. However, they come in many different shapes and sizes.

Here are a few types of galaxies:

a cartoon of a spiral galaxy

Spiral galaxies look like giant pinwheels. The arms of the pinwheel are made up of stars and lots of gas and dust. Gas and dust are some of the main ingredients needed to form new stars. Young stars burn much hotter than older stars, so spiral galaxies are often some of the brightest in the universe. About 60% of nearby galaxies are spirals. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a very good example of one.

a cartoon of an elliptical galaxy

Elliptical galaxies are shaped like stretched-out circles, or ellipses. Some elliptical galaxies are more stretched out than others. One might look almost perfectly circular. Another one might look long and flat. Elliptical galaxies contain mostly older stars. That means they often aren't as bright as spiral galaxies. They also have very little dust and gas. Elliptical galaxies are the largest and most common galaxies observed. They make up about 20% of nearby galaxies.

a cartoon of an irregular galaxy

Irregular galaxies are just that: irregular. They don't have a single common shape. Irregular galaxies are among the smallest galaxies scientists have observed. However, they can also be very bright. Like spiral galaxies, irregular galaxies are often filled with gas, dust, and lots of bright young stars. About 20% of nearby galaxies are irregular galaxies.

a cartoon of a quasar

Quasars are compact areas in the center of a galaxy. They give off enormous amounts of energy. Quasars are actually some of the brightest objects in the universe. There are no quasars near our Milky Way.

article last updated January 19, 2022
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