The Coma Cluster of Galaxies
Click on image for full size
Courtesy of NASA.
Elliptical galaxies come in a range of shapes and sizes. They can be
circular or egg-shaped. They can be very large and bright (giants!)
or rather small and dim (dwarfs!). We can learn about how these
galaxies formed and evolved from their size and shape.
If you have the chance to see one through a small telescope, it will
probably look just like a fuzzy smudge to you, a piece of lint. But
it is really formed of many billions of stars orbitting the center of
the galaxy just as the Sun is orbiting the center of our galaxy. All
the light of the galaxy comes from the stars. Elliptical galaxies are
old. They formed all their stars a long time ago, and are no longer
making new stars.
Galaxies like to live together in groups called clusters. In
clusters, elliptical galaxies are the most common type of galaxy. In
our group of galaxies, for example, there are no giant ellipticals,
but many dwarf ellipticals orbiting both the Milky Way and the Andromeda
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