Galaxy morphological classification

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Tuning-fork-style diagram of the Hubble sequence HubbleTuningFork.jpg
Tuning-fork-style diagram of the Hubble sequence

Galaxy morphological classification is a system used by astronomers to divide galaxies into groups based on their visual appearance. There are several schemes in use by which galaxies can be classified according to their morphologies, the most famous being the Hubble sequence, devised by Edwin Hubble and later expanded by Gérard de Vaucouleurs and Allan Sandage. However, galaxy classification and morphology are now largely done using computational methods and physical morphology.

Contents

Hubble sequence

Spiral galaxy UGC 12591 is classified as an S0/Sa galaxy. UGC12591 Hubble 4000.jpg
Spiral galaxy UGC 12591 is classified as an S0/Sa galaxy.

The Hubble sequence is a morphological classification scheme for galaxies invented by Edwin Hubble in 1926. [2] [3] It is often known colloquially as the “Hubble tuning-fork” because of the shape in which it is traditionally represented. Hubble's scheme divides galaxies into three broad classes based on their visual appearance (originally on photographic plates): [4]

The Hubble sequence throughout the universe's history. The Hubble Sequence throughout the Universe's history.jpg
The Hubble sequence throughout the universe's history.

These broad classes can be extended to enable finer distinctions of appearance and to encompass other types of galaxies, such as irregular galaxies, which have no obvious regular structure (either disk-like or ellipsoidal). [4]

The Hubble sequence is often represented in the form of a two-pronged fork, with the ellipticals on the left (with the degree of ellipticity increasing from left to right) and the barred and unbarred spirals forming the two parallel prongs of the fork. Lenticular galaxies are placed between the ellipticals and the spirals, at the point where the two prongs meet the “handle”. [8]

To this day, the Hubble sequence is the most commonly used system for classifying galaxies, both in professional astronomical research and in amateur astronomy. [9] Nonetheless, in June 2019, citizen scientists through Galaxy Zoo reported that the usual Hubble classification, particularly concerning spiral galaxies, may not be supported, and may need updating. [10] [11]

De Vaucouleurs system

Hubble - de Vaucouleurs Galaxy Morphology Diagram Hubble - de Vaucouleurs Galaxy Morphology Diagram.png
Hubble - de Vaucouleurs Galaxy Morphology Diagram
Galaxy morphology.jpg
NGC 6782: a spiral galaxy (type SB(r)0/a) with three rings of different radii, as well as a bar. NGC 6782 I HST2002.jpg
NGC 6782: a spiral galaxy (type SB(r)0/a) with three rings of different radii, as well as a bar.
NGC 7793: a spiral galaxy of type SA(s)d. NGC 7793SpitzerFull.jpg
NGC 7793: a spiral galaxy of type SA(s)d.
The Large Magellanic Cloud: a type SBm galaxy. Large.mc.arp.750pix.jpg
The Large Magellanic Cloud: a type SBm galaxy.

The de Vaucouleurs system for classifying galaxies is a widely used extension to the Hubble sequence, first described by Gérard de Vaucouleurs in 1959. [12] De Vaucouleurs argued that Hubble's two-dimensional classification of spiral galaxies—based on the tightness of the spiral arms and the presence or absence of a bar—did not adequately describe the full range of observed galaxy morphologies. In particular, he argued that rings and lenses are important structural components of spiral galaxies. [13]

The de Vaucouleurs system retains Hubble's basic division of galaxies into ellipticals, lenticulars, spirals and irregulars. To complement Hubble's scheme, de Vaucouleurs introduced a more elaborate classification system for spiral galaxies, based on three morphological characteristics: [14]

The different elements of the classification scheme are combined — in the order in which they are listed — to give the complete classification of a galaxy. For example, a weakly barred spiral galaxy with loosely wound arms and a ring is denoted SAB(r)c.

Visually, the de Vaucouleurs system can be represented as a three-dimensional version of Hubble's tuning fork, with stage (spiralness) on the x-axis, family (barredness) on the y-axis, and variety (ringedness) on the z-axis. [16]

Numerical Hubble stage

De Vaucouleurs also assigned numerical values to each class of galaxy in his scheme. Values of the numerical Hubble stage T run from −6 to +10, with negative numbers corresponding to early-type galaxies (ellipticals and lenticulars) and positive numbers to late types (spirals and irregulars). [17] Thus, as a rough rule, lower values of T correspond to a larger fraction of the stellar mass contained in a spheroid/bulge relative to the disk. The approximate mapping between the spheroid-to-total stellar mass ratio (MB/MT) and the Hubble stage is MB/MT=(10-T)2/256 based on local galaxies. [18]

Elliptical galaxies are divided into three 'stages': compact ellipticals (cE), normal ellipticals (E) and late types (E+). Lenticulars are similarly subdivided into early (S), intermediate (S0) and late (S+) types. Irregular galaxies can be of type magellanic irregulars (T = 10) or 'compact' (T = 11).

Numerical Hubble stage
Hubble stage T−6−5−4−3−2−101234567891011
de Vaucouleurs class [16] cEEE+S0S00S0+S0/aSaSabSbSbcScScdSdSdmSmIm
approximate Hubble class [19] ES0S0/aSaSa-bSbSb-cScSc-IrrIrr I

The use of numerical stages allows for more quantitative studies of galaxy morphology.

Yerkes (or Morgan) scheme

The Yerkes scheme was created by American astronomer William Wilson Morgan. Together with Philip Keenan, Morgan also developed the MK system for the classification of stars through their spectra. The Yerkes scheme uses the spectra of stars in the galaxy; the shape, real and apparent; and the degree of the central concentration to classify galaxies. [20]

Spectral TypeExplanation
aProminent A stars
afProminent A–F stars
fProminent F stars
fgProminent F–G stars
gProminent G stars
gkProminent G–K stars
kProminent K stars
Galactic ShapeExplanation
BBarred spiral
DRotational symmetry without pronounced spiral or elliptical structure
EElliptical
EpElliptical with dust absorption
IIrregular
LLow surface brightness
NSmall bright nucleus
SSpiral
InclinationExplanation
1Galaxy is "face-on"
2
3
4
5
6
7Galaxy is "edge-on"

Thus, for example, the Andromeda Galaxy is classified as kS5. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Galaxy formation and evolution from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time

The study of galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the processes that formed a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time, and the processes that have generated the variety of structures observed in nearby galaxies. Galaxy formation is hypothesized to occur from structure formation theories, as a result of tiny quantum fluctuations in the aftermath of the Big Bang. The simplest model in general agreement with observed phenomena is the Lambda-CDM model—that is, that clustering and merging allows galaxies to accumulate mass, determining both their shape and structure.

Galaxy Gravitationally bound astronomical structure

A galaxy is a gravitationally bound system of stars, stellar remnants, interstellar gas, dust, and dark matter. The word is derived from the Greek galaxias (γαλαξίας), literally "milky", a reference to the Milky Way. Galaxies range in size from dwarfs with just a few hundred million stars to giants with one hundred trillion stars, each orbiting its galaxy's center of mass.

Hubble sequence Galaxy morphological classification scheme invented by Edwin Hubble

The Hubble sequence is a morphological classification scheme for galaxies invented by Edwin Hubble in 1926. It is often colloquially known as the Hubble tuning fork diagram because the shape in which it is traditionally represented resembles a tuning fork.

Elliptical galaxy Galaxy having an approximately ellipsoidal shape and a smooth, nearly featureless brightness profile

An elliptical galaxy is a type of galaxy with an approximately ellipsoidal shape and a smooth, nearly featureless image. They are one of the four main classes of galaxy described by Edwin Hubble in his Hubble sequence and 1936 work The Realm of the Nebulae, along with spiral and lenticular galaxies. Elliptical (E) galaxies are, together with lenticular galaxies (S0) with their large-scale disks, and ES galaxies with their intermediate scale disks, a subset of the "early-type" galaxy population.

Spiral galaxy Class of galaxy having a number of arms of younger stars

Spiral galaxies form a class of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in his 1936 work The Realm of the Nebulae and, as such, form part of the Hubble sequence. Most spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge. These are often surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars, many of which reside in globular clusters.

Irregular galaxy Galaxy not having a distinct regular shape

An irregular galaxy is a galaxy that does not have a distinct regular shape, unlike a spiral or an elliptical galaxy. Irregular galaxies do not fall into any of the regular classes of the Hubble sequence, and they are often chaotic in appearance, with neither a nuclear bulge nor any trace of spiral arm structure.

Lenticular galaxy Type of galaxy with a large-scale disc but no large-scale spiral arms

A lenticular galaxy is a type of galaxy intermediate between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy in galaxy morphological classification schemes. It contains a large-scale disc but does not have large-scale spiral arms. Lenticular galaxies are disc galaxies that have used up or lost most of their interstellar matter and therefore have very little ongoing star formation. They may, however, retain significant dust in their disks. As a result, they consist mainly of aging stars. Despite the morphological differences, lenticular and elliptical galaxies share common properties like spectral features and scaling relations. Both can be considered early-type galaxies that are passively evolving, at least in the local part of the Universe. Connecting the E galaxies with the S0 galaxies are the ES galaxies with intermediate-scale discs.

Galactic bulge Tightly packed group of stars within a larger formation

In astronomy, a galactic bulge is a tightly packed group of stars within a larger star formation. The term almost exclusively refers to the central group of stars found in most spiral galaxies. Bulges were historically thought to be elliptical galaxies that happened to have a disk of stars around them, but high-resolution images using the Hubble Space Telescope have revealed that many bulges lie at the heart of a spiral galaxy. It is now thought that there are at least two types of bulges: bulges that are like ellipticals and bulges that are like spiral galaxies.

Barred spiral galaxy Spiral galaxy with a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars

A barred spiral galaxy is a spiral galaxy with a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars. Bars are found in about half of all spiral galaxies. Bars generally affect both the motions of stars and interstellar gas within spiral galaxies and can affect spiral arms as well. The Milky Way Galaxy, where the Solar System is located, is classified as a barred spiral galaxy.

Disc galaxy Type of galactic form

A disc galaxy is a galaxy characterized by a galactic disc, a flattened circular volume of stars. These galaxies may or may not include a central non-disc-like region.

Interacting galaxy Galaxies whose gravitational fields result in the disturbance of one another.

Interacting galaxies are galaxies whose gravitational fields result in a disturbance of one another. An example of a minor interaction is a satellite galaxy disturbing the primary galaxy's spiral arms. An example of a major interaction is a galactic collision, which may lead to a galaxy merger.

Intermediate spiral galaxy Galaxy type

An intermediate spiral galaxy is a galaxy that is in between the classifications of a barred spiral galaxy and an unbarred spiral galaxy. It is designated as SAB in the galaxy morphological classification system devised by Gerard de Vaucouleurs. Subtypes are labeled as SAB0, SABa, SABb, or SABc, following a sequence analogous to the Hubble sequence for barred and unbarred spirals. The subtype is based on the relative prominence of the central bulge and how tightly wound the spiral arms are.

Unbarred spiral galaxy

An unbarred spiral galaxy is a type of spiral galaxy without a central bar, or one that is not a barred spiral galaxy. It is designated with an SA in the galaxy morphological classification scheme.

NGC 1553 lenticular galaxy in the constellation Dorado

NGC 1553 is a prototypical lenticular galaxy in the constellation Dorado. It is the second brightest member of the Dorado Group of galaxies. British astronomer John Herschel discovered NGC 1553 on December 5, 1834 using an 18.7 inch reflector.

Magellanic spiral galaxies are (usually) dwarf galaxies which are classified as the type Sm. They are galaxies with one single spiral arm, and are named after their prototype, the Large Magellanic Cloud, an SBm galaxy. They can be considered to be intermediate between dwarf spiral galaxies and irregular galaxies.

Galactic clusters are gravitationally bound large-scale structures of multiple galaxies. The evolution of these aggregates is determined by time and manner of formation and the process of how their structures and constituents have been changing with time. Gamow (1952) and Weizscker (1951) showed that the observed rotations of galaxies are important for cosmology. They postulated that the rotation of galaxies might be a clue of physical conditions under which these systems formed. Thus, understanding the distribution of spatial orientations of the spin vectors of galaxies is critical to understanding the origin of the angular momenta of galaxies.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to galaxies:

NGC 4608 Barred lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo

NGC 4608 is a barred lenticular galaxy located in the constellation of Virgo. The galaxy was discovered by astronomer William Herschel on March 15, 1784. At about 56 million light-years away, it is a member of the Virgo Cluster.

NGC 765 Intermediate spiral galaxy in the constellation Aries

NGC 765 is an intermediate spiral galaxy located in the constellation Aries. It is located at a distance of circa 220 million light years from Earth, which, given its apparent dimensions, means that NGC 765 is about 195,000 light years across. It was discovered by Albert Marth on October 8, 1864. The galaxy has an extensive hydrogen (HI) disk with low surface brightness, whose diameter is estimated to be 240 kpc.

NGC 5728 Barred spiral galaxy in the constellation Libra

NGC 5728 is an active barred spiral galaxy located 146 million light years away in the southern constellation of Libra. It was discovered on May 7, 1787 by William Herschel. The designation comes from the New General Catalogue of J. L. E. Dreyer, published in 1888. It has an apparent visual magnitude of 13.40 and spans an angle of 3.4 arcminutes. The galaxy shows a red shift of 0.00935 and has a heliocentric radial velocity of 2,803 km/s. It has an estimated mass of 72 billion times the mass of the Sun and stretches around 30 kpc across.

References

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