What Are the Different Types of Galaxy Clusters?

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Galaxy clusters are divided into different types by the number of galaxies in the cluster or its shape. Learn about rich clusters and poor clusters, regular and irregular clusters, and superclusters and voids. Updated: 10/20/2021

Living Together in Groups

You know, it seems that out in this world there are very few living things that want to be alone. Trying to make it on your own is very difficult. People are social animals, trees grow in forests, geese flock together, even many insects prefer to live in giant swarms.

Funny enough, galaxies are sort of like this, too! Isolated galaxies (loners, if your will) are actually quite rare in our universe.

Most galaxies occur in clusters, sort of like cities or communities of people, but for galaxies. There are several different types of clusters of galaxies this lesson will cover.

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  • 0:02 Living Together in Groups
  • 0:43 Rich Clusters & Poor Clusters
  • 2:09 Regular & Irregular Clusters
  • 2:40 Superclusters & Voids
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Rich Clusters & Poor Clusters

Rich and poor people can live in rich and poor cities. But rich and poor cities aren't always defined by how wealthy they are. Some cities can be rich in culture or other things.

Rich and poor galaxy clusters are also not measured by wealth. Instead, those terms are a measure of the population of a galaxy cluster.

A rich galaxy cluster is a cluster that contains over a thousand galaxies, whereas as a poor galaxy cluster is a cluster that contains less than a thousand galaxies. Sometimes, a poor galaxy cluster is called a group.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is part of the Local Group, the name for a cluster of a few dozen galaxies that includes the Milky Way Galaxy.

A rich cluster is typically crowded at the center with galaxies. Think of New York City - it's a very big city, but it's super crowded at its very center. Just like big cities contain giant skyscrapers at their center, rich clusters often contain one or more giant elliptical galaxies at their centers.

A poor cluster might occupy a similarly-sized region of space as a rich cluster but with fewer galaxies. This obviously means the galaxies are spread apart, like how people living in a farming community have houses separated by great distances.

Regular & Irregular Clusters

Sort of related to the poor and rich clusters are regular and irregular clusters.

A regular cluster is a cluster that is spherically-shaped, usually rich, and one that contains many elliptical galaxies.

An irregular cluster is a cluster with no specific shape, generally poor, and made of irregular, elliptical, spiral, and barred spiral galaxies.

Once again, the Local Group, containing our Milky Way, is part of an irregular cluster.

Superclusters & Voids

The rare galaxies that are found to be all alone in space are spiral galaxies more than 80% of the time.

These loners are a direct contrast to superclusters. Superclusters are clusters of clusters of galaxies. A supercluster will have dozens of individual clusters. These will be spread around regions of space of up to 150 million light years across!

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