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Irregular 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.

There are three different types of galaxies in our universe. In this lesson, you'll learn about irregular galaxies, including how they're formed and what they look like. Read on to find out about these unique galaxies.

Types of Galaxies

You may have never thought about it, but when you look up into the sky at night, you're actually looking at more than just stars. You can also see other galaxies! Galaxies are collections of stars, space dust, planets, and gases that are all held together by gravity. Although they may look fuzzy if you look at them without a telescope, you can still see galaxies that are millions of miles away with just your eyes.

Large Magellanic Cloud Irregular Galaxy
lmc

Not all galaxies look the same. There are three main kinds of galaxies: spiral galaxies, elliptical galaxies, and irregular galaxies. Spiral galaxies have a bulge or ball in the middle and one or more arms swirling around the center; they look like spirals, which is where they get their name. Elliptical galaxies are galaxies that are roundish in shape. They might be totally round, like a ball, or they might be round only at the ends and flattened on the top and bottom, like a ball if you push down on it.

The third type of galaxy is called an irregular galaxy. As you might guess from their name, irregular galaxies don't have a specific shape; they're all different. Let's look more closely at irregular galaxies.

Characteristics of Irregular Galaxies

Any galaxy that doesn't fit into one of the other galaxy groups is called an irregular galaxy. Of all the galaxies seen by astronomers, who are scientists that study objects in space, the irregular galaxies are the smallest group.

Irregular galaxies all look different. What they do have in common is that all have a lot of space dust and gases in them. Also, the stars in an irregular galaxy are usually young, very bright stars. Most irregular galaxies have the right conditions to make new stars.

Small Magellanic Cloud Irregular Galaxy
smc

Just like our moon orbits the Earth, some irregular galaxies orbit around other galaxies. And some irregular galaxies are called starburst galaxies; these galaxies are very bright because they have many new stars in them.

Irregular galaxies form in different ways. Some of them are formed when other galaxies collide, or bump into, each other or just get too close.

Some Well-Known Irregular Galaxies

There are a few irregular galaxies that have been studied by astronomers. These include the Large Magellanic Cloud and Small Magellanic Cloud.

The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, also called the LMC and SMC, are irregular galaxies that are very close to the Milky Way galaxy, where our Earth is located. At one time, the LMC was a spiral galaxy, but over time, it lost its spiral shape and is now an irregular galaxy.

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