Elliptical Galaxy Lesson for Kids: Definition & Facts

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

In this lesson, you'll learn about elliptical galaxies, which are one of the three types of galaxies in our universe. Read on to find out how elliptical galaxies form and what they're made from.

What's a Galaxy?

Have you ever heard anyone say that you live in the Milky Way galaxy? A galaxy is a group of stars, gases, and space dust that's held together by gravity. Our Earth is one planet in the Milky Way galaxy.

There are three different kinds of galaxies, which were named after their shapes:

  • A spiral galaxy has a bulge in the middle and arms that come out from the bulge, spiraling around it. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy.
  • Irregular galaxies don't have any regular shape that we can identify.
  • Elliptical galaxies have a rounded shape.

Let's look more closely at elliptical galaxies.

Named for Their Shape

Elliptical galaxies are all rounded, but they're not perfect spheres. Think about a basketball. Some elliptical galaxies are as round as a basketball. If you could push down on the basketball, you'd make it kind of flat on the sides; some elliptical galaxies can look like this, too. They can sometimes get so flat that they look like cigars, with rounded ends.

An Elliptical Galaxy

Scientists have come up with a way to identify elliptical galaxies by judging how round they are. They are all named with the letter ''E'' for elliptical, and then they are given a number from 0 to 7. An elliptical galaxy that is almost perfectly round would be an E0 galaxy. One that looks very flattened would be an E7 galaxy, because it's not very round and is very long and thin.

Most Common Galaxy

Elliptical galaxies are the most common type of galaxy that scientists have found in our universe. Astronomers have identified and named more of the spiral galaxies because their swirling arms and brightness make them easier to spot.

An Elliptical Galaxy

Elliptical galaxies are older and give off less light than other galaxies. They also have less dust and gas in them, so they don't form many new stars. Astronomers actually think that older spiral galaxies turn into elliptical galaxies after they have burned up most of their gas making new stars.

Elliptical galaxies are also formed when two galaxies bump into each other.

Like spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies have huge black holes in their centers. These black holes have very strong gravity and hold together the rest of the galaxy. While most black holes are only a few times bigger than our sun, the black holes at the center of elliptical galaxies are huge. They can be as large as several billion of our suns!

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