Top Ten Galaxies

Top Ten Galaxies

GalaxiesSombrero Galaxy1Galaxies2

  1. Milky Way Galaxy
    Milky Way GalaxyMilky Way Galaxy1Milky Way Galaxy21342
           Home sweet home! The Milky Way Galaxy is the one in which we currently reside and classified as a barred spiral galaxy that is part of a local group of galaxies. Its name is a translation of the Latin Via Lactea, in turn translated from the Greek Γαλαξίας (Galaxias), referring to the pale band of light formed by stars in the galactic plane as seen from Earth.
  2. IC 1101

           IC 1101 is a supergiant lenticular galaxy at the center of the Abell 2029 galaxy cluster. It is 1.07 billion light years away in the constellation of Serpens and is classified as a cD class of galaxy. The galaxy has a diameter of approximately 5 million light years, which makes it currently (as of 2010) the largest known galaxy in terms of breadth. It is thought to contain up to 100 trillion stars, compared to our own galaxy’s estimated 0.25 trillion stars, or Andromeda’s 1 trillion. Being more than 50 times the size of the Milky Way and 2000 times as massive, if it was in place of our galaxy, it would swallow up the Large Magellanic Cloud, Small Magellanic Cloud, Andromeda Galaxy, and Triangulum Galaxy. IC 1101 owes its size to many collisions of much smaller galaxies about the size Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies.
  3. Andromeda Galaxy
    Andromeda GalaxyAndromeda Galaxy1Andromedans1Andromedans
    The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2,500,000 light-years away in the constellation Andromeda. It is also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, and is often referred to as the Great Andromeda Nebula in older texts. Andromeda is the nearest spiral galaxy to the Milky Way, but not the closest galaxy overall. As it is visible from Earth as a faint smudge on a moonless night, it is one of the farthest objects visible to the naked eye, and can be seen even from urban areas with binoculars. It gets its name from the area of the sky in which it appears, the Andromeda constellation, which was named after the mythological princess Andromeda. Andromeda is the largest galaxy of the Local Group, which consists of the Andromeda Galaxy, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Triangulum Galaxy, and about 30 other smaller galaxies. Although the largest, Andromeda may not be the most massive, as recent findings suggest that the Milky Way contains more dark matter and may be the most massive in the grouping. The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that M31 contains one trillion (1012) stars, more than the number of stars in our own galaxy, which is estimated to be between 200-400 billion. While the 2006 estimates put the mass of the Milky Way to be ~80% of the mass of Andromeda, which is estimated to be 7.1 × 1011 solar masses, a 2009 study concluded that Andromeda and the Milky Way are about equal in mass. At an apparent magnitude of 3.4, the Andromeda Galaxy is notable for being one of the brightest Messier objects, making it easily visible to the naked eye even when viewed from areas with moderate light pollution. Although it appears more than six times as wide as the full Moon when photographed through a larger telescope, only the brighter central region is visible to the naked eye or when viewed using a binoculars or a small telescope.
    Links: Extraterrestrials, Extraterrestrial Species,
  4. The Sombrero Galaxy
    Sombrero GalaxySombrero Galaxy1Sombrero Galaxy2
           The Sombrero Galaxy (also known as M 104 or NGC 4594 ) is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of +9.0, making it easily visible with amateur telescopes. The large bulge, the central super massive black hole, and the dust lane all attract the attention of professional astronomers.
  5. NGC 3314
           NGC 3314 is a pair of overlapping spiral galaxies between 117-140 million light-years away in the constellation Hydra. The foreground galaxy (NGC 3314a) is seen almost directly face-on. This virtually unique arrangement gives astronomers a chance to measure the properties of interstellar dust that create the dark areas silhouetted against the background galaxy (NGC 3314b). While searching for overlapping galaxies in April 1999, two astronomers from the University of Alabama were the first to image the deep sky object in enough detail to tell that it was in fact two galaxies. In a March 2000 observation of the galaxies, a prominent green star-like object was seen in one of the arms. Astronomers theorized that it could have been a supernova, but the unique filtering properties of the foreground galaxy made it difficult to decide definitively.
  6. IOK-1 (Most Remote Galaxy)
           IOK-1, probably one of the oldest and most distant galaxies yet found, seen as it was 12.88 billion years ago, was discovered in April 2006 by Masanori Iye at National Astronomical Observatory of Japan using the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. Its emission of Lyman alpha radiation has a redshift of 6.96, corresponding to just 750 million years after the Big Bang. While some scientists have claimed other objects (such as Abell 1835 IR1916) to be even older, the IOK-1’s age and composition have been more reliably established. “IOK” stands for the observers’ names Iye, Ota, and Kashikawa.
  7. Mayall’s Object (Pac-Man Galaxy)
    Arp 148
           Mayall’s Object (also classified under the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 148) is the result of two colliding galaxies located 500 million light years away within the constellation of Ursa Major. It was discovered by Nicholas U. Mayall of the Lick Observatory on 13 March 1940, using the Crossley reflector. When first discovered, Mayall’s Object was described as a peculiar nebula, shaped like a question mark. Originally theorized to represent a galaxy reacting with the intergalactic medium, it is now thought to represent the collision of the two original galaxies has resulted in a new object consisting of a ring-shaped galaxy with a tail emerging from it. It is thought that the original collision between the two original galaxies created a shockwave that initially drew matter into the center which then formed the ring.
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  8. The Antennae Galaxy

           The Antennae Galaxies (also known as NGC 4038/NGC 4039) are a pair of interacting galaxies in the constellation Corvus. They were both discovered by Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel in 1785. Located in the NGC 4038 group with five other galaxies, these two galaxies are known as the ‘Antennae’ because the two long tails of stars, gas and dust thrown out of the galaxies as a result of the collision resemble the antennae of an insect. This is likely the future of our Milky Way when it collides with the Andromeda Galaxy in some two billion years. Two supernovae have been discovered in the galaxy: SN 2004GT and SN 2007sr. A recent study finds that these interacting galaxies are closer to the Milky Way than previously thought, at 45 million light-years instead of 65 million light-years.
  9. Cartwheel Galaxy

    The Cartwheel Galaxy (also known as ESO 350-40) is a lenticular galaxy and ring galaxy about 500 million light-years away in the constellation Sculptor. It is an estimated 150,000 light-years across, has a mass of about 2.9–4.8 × 109 solar masses, and rotates at 217 km/s. It was discovered by Fritz Zwicky in 1941. Zwicky considered his discovery to be “one of the most complicated structures awaiting its explanation on the basis of stellar dynamics.” An estimation of the galaxy’s span resulted in a conclusion of 150,000 light years, which is slightly larger than the Milky Way.
  10. Messier 82

           Messier 82 (also known as NGC 3034, Cigar Galaxy or M82) is the prototype nearby starburst galaxy about 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major. The starburst galaxy is five times as bright as the whole Milky Way and one hundred times as bright as our galaxy’s center. In 2005, the Hubble revealed 197 young massive clusters in the starburst core. The average mass of these clusters is around 2 × 105 M, hence the starburst core is a very energetic and high-density environment. Throughout the galaxy’s center, young stars are being born 10 times faster than they are inside our entire Milky Way Galaxy.
  11. Sunflower Galaxy

           The Sunflower Galaxy (also known as Messier 63, M63, or NGC 5055) is a spiral galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici consisting of a central disc surrounded by many short spiral arm segments. The Sunflower Galaxy is part of the M51 Group, a group of galaxies that also includes the Whirlpool Galaxy (M51).
  12. Bonus: Baby Boom Galaxy
           The Baby Boom Galaxy is a starburst galaxy located 12.2 billion light years away. Discovered by NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, the galaxy is notable for being the new record holder for the brightest starburst galaxy in the very distant universe, with brightness being a measure of its extreme star-formation rate. The Baby Boom Galaxy has been nicknamed “the extreme stellar machine” because it is seen producing stars at a surprising rate of up to 4,000 per year. The Milky Way galaxy in which we live turns out an average of just 10 stars per year.
  13. Bonus: Centaurus A
    Centaurus A
           Centaurus A (also known as NGC 5128) is a lenticular galaxy about 11 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. It is one of the closest radio galaxies to Earth, so its active galactic nucleus has been extensively studied by professional astronomers. The galaxy is also the 5th brightest in the sky, making it an ideal amateur astronomy target, although the galaxy is only visible from low northern latitudes and the southern hemisphere. A relativistic jet which extracts energy from the vicinity of what is believed to be a super massive black hole at the center of the galaxy is responsible for emissions in the X-ray and radio wavelengths. By taking radio observations of the jet separated by a decade, astronomers have determined that the inner parts of the jet are moving at about one half of the speed of light. X-rays are produced farther out as the jet collides with surrounding gases resulting in the creation of highly energetic particles. As observed in other starburst galaxies, a collision is responsible for the intense burst of star formation. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope scientists confirm that Centaurus A is going through a galaxy collision by devouring a spiral galaxy.
  14. Bonus: Comet Galaxy

           The Comet Galaxy is a spiral galaxy located 3.2 billion light-years from Earth, in the galaxy cluster Abell 2667, was found with the Hubble Space Telescope. This galaxy has around 500 thousand stars in it and has a little more mass than our Milky Way. It was detected on 2nd March of 2007.
  15. Bonus: Mesier 51, Grand Design Spiral Galaxy
    Mesier 51Mesier 511Mesier 512
           The Whirlpool Galaxy (also known as Messier 51a, M51a, or NGC 5194) is an interacting grand-design spiral galaxy located at a distance of approximately 23 million light-years in the constellation Canes Venatici. It is one of the most famous galaxies in the sky. The galaxy and its companion (NGC 5195) are easily observed by amateur astronomers, and the two galaxies may even be seen with binoculars. The Whirlpool Galaxy is also a popular target for professional astronomers, who study it to further understand galaxy structure (particularly structure associated with the spiral arms) and galaxy interactions. A grand design spiral galaxy is a type of spiral galaxy with prominent and well-defined spiral arms, as opposed to multi-arm and flocculent spirals which have subtler structural features. The spiral arms of a grand design galaxy extend clearly around the galaxy through many radians and can be observed over a large fraction of the galaxy’s radius. Approximately ten percent of spiral galaxies are classified as grand design type spirals, including M81, M51 and M74. Density wave theory is the preferred explanation for the well-defined structure of grand design spirals. According to this theory, the spiral arms are created inside density waves that turn around the galaxy at different speeds from the stars in the galaxy’s disk. Stars are clumped in these dense regions due to gravitational attraction towards the dense material, though their location in the spiral arm may not be permanent. When they come close to the spiral arm, they are pulled towards the dense material by the force of gravity; and as they travel through the arm, they are slowed from exiting by the same gravitational pull. This causes material to clump in the dense regions.
  16. Bonus: Messier 77
    Messier 77
           Messier 77 (also known as NGC 1068) is a barred spiral galaxy about 47 million light-years away in the constellation Cetus. Messier 77 is an active galaxy with an Active Galactic Nucleus (AGN), which is obscured from view by astronomical dust at visible wavelengths. The diameter of the molecular disk and hot plasma associated with the obscuring material was first measured at radio wavelengths by the VLBA and VLA. The hot dust around the nucleus was subsequently measured in the mid-infrared by the MIDI instrument at the VLTI. It is the brightest Seyfert galaxy and is of type 2. Messier 77’s diameter is 170,000 light-years.
  17. Bonus: Circinus Galaxy

           The Circinus Galaxy (ESO 97-G13) is a Seyfert Galaxy in the Circinus constellation. It is only 4 degrees below the Galactic plane, and 13 million light-years away. The galaxy is undergoing tumultuous changes, as rings of gas are being ejected from the galaxy. The outermost ring is 700 light-years from the center of the galaxy and the inner ring is 130 light-years out. The Circinus galaxy can be seen using a small telescope, however it was not noticed until 25 years ago because it was obscured by material from our own galaxy. The Circinus Galaxy is a Type II Seyfert galaxy and closest known active galaxy to the Milky Way.
  18. Bonus: ISOHDFS 27

           ISOHDFS 27 is the most massive spiral galaxy known so far. It is approximately 6 billion light years from Earth. It has a mass of 1.04 × 1012 solar masses (M), about four times as massive as the Milky Way.
  19. Bonus: Tadpole Galaxy

           The Tadpole Galaxy is a disrupted barred spiral galaxy located 400 million light years from Earth toward the northern constellation Draco. Its most dramatic features are a trail of stars about 280 thousand light-years long and massive, bright blue star clusters. It is hypothesized that a more compact intruder galaxy crossed in front of the Tadpole Galaxy, from left to right from the perspective of Earth, and was slung around behind the Tadpole by their mutual gravitational attraction. During this close encounter, tidal forces drew out the spiral galaxy’s stars, gas, and dust, forming the conspicuous tail. The intruder galaxy itself, estimated to lie about 300 thousand light-years behind the Tadpole, can be seen through foreground spiral arms at the upper left. Following its terrestrial namesake, the Tadpole Galaxy will likely lose its tail as it grows older, the tail’s star clusters forming smaller satellites of the large spiral galaxy.
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  20. Bonus: Arp 220
    Arp 2201
           Arp 220 is the result of a collision between two galaxies which are now in the process of merging. Located 250 million light-years away in the constellation Serpens, it is the 220th object in Halton Arp’s Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies.
  21. Bonus: NGC 2770

           NGC 2770 is a type SASc spiral galaxy located about 88 million light years away, in the constellation Lynx. It has been referred to as the ‘Supernova Factory as 3 supernovas have occurred there recently: SN 1999eh, SN 2007uy, and SN 2008D. The last of these is famous for being the first supernova detected by the X-Rays released very early on in its formation, rather than by the optical light emitted during the later stages, which allowed the first moments of the outburst to be observed. It is possible that NGC 2770’s interactions with a suspected companion galaxy may have created the massive stars causing this activity. NGC 2770 was also the target for the first binocular image produced by the Large Binocular Telescope.
  22. Bonus: Large Magellanic Cloud
    Large Magellanic CloudLarge Magellanic Cloud1Large Magellanic Cloud2
           The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is a nearby irregular galaxy, and is a satellite of the Milky Way. At a distance of slightly less than 50 kiloparsecs (≈160,000 light-years), the LMC is the third closest galaxy to the Milky Way, with the Sagittarius Dwarf Spheroidal (~ 16 kiloparsecs) and Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy (~ 12.9 kiloparsecs) lying closer to the center of the Milky Way. It has a mass equivalent to approximately 10 billion times the mass of our Sun (1010 solar masses), making it roughly 1/10 as massive as the Milky Way, and a diameter of about 14,000 light-years. The LMC is the 4th largest galaxy in the Local Group, the first, second and third largest places being taken by Andromeda Galaxy (M31), our own Milky Way Galaxy, and the Triangulum Galaxy (M33), respectively. While the LMC is often considered an irregular type galaxy (the NASA Extragalactic Database lists the Hubble sequence type as Irr/SB(s)m), the LMC contains a very prominent bar in its center, suggesting that it may have previously been a barred spiral galaxy. The LMC’s irregular appearance is possibly the result of tidal interactions with both the Milky Way, and the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC). It is visible as a faint “cloud” in the night sky of the southern hemisphere straddling the border between the constellations of Dorado and Mensa.
  23. Bonus: ESO 137-001

           ESO 137-001 is a galaxy located in the relatively close cluster known as Abell 3627. As the galaxy moves to the center of the cluster, it is stripped by hot gas thus creating a 260,000 light year long tail. Available data shows evidence for star formation in the tails. The stripping of gas is thought to have a significant effect on the galaxy’s evolution, removing cold gas from the galaxy, shutting down the formation of new stars in the galaxy, and changing the appearance of inner spiral arms and bulges because of the effects of star formation.
  24. Bonus: Sculptor Galaxy
    Sculptor Galaxy
    Description: The Sculptor Galaxy (NGC 253) is an intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Sculptor. The Sculptor Galaxy is a starburst galaxy, which means that it is currently undergoing a period of intense star formation.
  25. Links: The Universe, Top Ten Exoplanets, Top 100 Hubble Telescope Photos, Top Ten Modern Wonders of the World, Top Ten Telescopes, Top Ten Personal Telescopes,

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