What Type Of Galaxy Is The Milky Way Classified Assignment

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.

Hubble sequence[edit]

Main article: Hubble sequence

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):

  • Elliptical galaxies have smooth, featureless light distributions and appear as ellipses in images. They are denoted by the letter "E", followed by an integer n representing their degree of ellipticity on the sky.
  • Spiral galaxies consist of a flattened disk, with stars forming a (usually two-armed) spiral structure, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge, which is similar in appearance to an elliptical galaxy. They are given the symbol "S". Roughly half of all spirals are also observed to have a bar-like structure, extending from the central bulge. These barred spirals are given the symbol "SB".
  • Lenticular galaxies (designated S0) also consist of a bright central bulge surrounded by an extended, disk-like structure but, unlike spiral galaxies, the disks of lenticular galaxies have no visible spiral structure and are not actively forming stars in any significant quantity.

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).

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”.

To this day, the Hubble sequence is the most commonly used system for classifying galaxies, both in professional astronomical research and in amateur astronomy.

De Vaucouleurs system[edit]

The de Vaucouleurs system for classifying galaxies is a widely used extension to the Hubble sequence, first described by Gérard de Vaucouleurs in 1959.[5] 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.[6]

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:

  • Bars. Galaxies are divided on the basis of the presence or absence of a nuclear bar. De Vaucouleurs introduced the notation SA to denote spiral galaxies without bars, complementing Hubble’s use of SB for barred spirals. He also allowed for an intermediate class, denoted SAB, containing weakly barred spirals.[7] Lenticular galaxies are also classified as unbarred (SA0) or barred (SB0), with the notation S0 reserved for those galaxies for which it is impossible to tell if a bar is present or not (usually because they are edge-on to the line-of-sight).
  • Rings. Galaxies are divided into those possessing ring-like structures (denoted ‘(r)’) and those without rings (denoted ‘(s)’). So-called ‘transition’ galaxies are given the symbol (rs).[7]
  • Spiral arms. As in Hubble’s original scheme, spiral galaxies are assigned to a class based primarily on the tightness of their spiral arms. The de Vaucouleurs scheme extends the arms of Hubble’s tuning fork to include several additional spiral classes:
    • Sd (SBd) - diffuse, broken arms made up of individual stellar clusters and nebulae; very faint central bulge
    • Sm (SBm) - irregular in appearance; no bulge component
    • Im - highly irregular galaxy
    Most galaxies in these three classes were classified as Irr I in Hubble’s original scheme. In addition, the Sd class contains some galaxies from Hubble’s Sc class. Galaxies in the classes Sm and Im are termed the “Magellanic” spirals and irregulars, respectively, after the Magellanic Clouds. The Large Magellanic Cloud is of type SBm, while the Small Magellanic Cloud is an irregular (Im).

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.[8]

Numerical Hubble stage[edit]

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). 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).

Hubble stage T−6−5−4−3−2−101234567891011
de Vaucouleurs class[8]cEEE+S0S00S0+S0/aSaSabSbSbcScScdSdSdmSmIm
approximate Hubble class[9]ES0S0/aSaSa-bSbSb-cScSc-IrrIrr I

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

Yerkes (or Morgan) scheme[edit]

Created by American astronomer William Wilson Morgan. Together with Philip Keenan, Morgan 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.

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
EpElliptical with dust absorption
LLow surface brightness
NSmall bright nucleus
1Galaxy is "face-on"
7Galaxy is "edge-on"

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

See also[edit]


  1. ^"A remarkable galactic hybrid". www.spacetelescope.org. Retrieved 27 February 2017. 
  2. ^Hubble, E. P. (1926). "Extra-galactic nebulae". Contributions from the Mount Wilson Observatory / Carnegie Institution of Washington. 324: 1–49. Bibcode:1926CMWCI.324....1H. 
  3. ^Hubble, E. P. (1936). The Realm of the Nebulae. New Haven: Yale University Press. LCCN 36018182. 
  4. ^"Hubble explores the origins of modern galaxies". ESA/Hubble Press Release. Retrieved 20 August 2013. 
  5. ^De Vaucouleurs, G. (1959). "Classification and Morphology of External Galaxies". Handbuch der Physik. 53: 275. Bibcode:1959HDP....53..275D. 
  6. ^Binney, J.; Merrifield, M. (1998). Galactic Astronomy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02565-0. 
  7. ^ abde Vaucouleurs, Gérard (April 1963). "Revised Classification of 1500 Bright Galaxies". Astrophysical Journal Supplement. 8: 31. Bibcode:1963ApJS....8...31D. doi:10.1086/190084. 
  8. ^ abDe Vaucouleurs, G. (1994). "Global Physical Parameters of Galaxies"(PostScript). Retrieved 2008-01-02. 
  9. ^Binney, J.; Merrifield, M. (1998). Galactic Astronomy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02565-0. 

External links[edit]

Spiral galaxy UGC 12591 is classified as an S0/Sa galaxy.[1]
The Hubble sequence throughout the universe's history.[4]
Hubble - de Vaucouleurs Galaxy Morphology Diagram
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.

There are many types of galaxies, which I won't go into here but in terms of our galaxy it is a SBc type.

SBc's meaning is as follows:

"S" stands for Spiral (shape looks like a spiral)

"B" stands for Barred (meaning that in the center of the spiral there is a rectangular shaped cluster of stars.

"c" stands for type c of the SB Galaxy, meaning that it's spiral arms are separated with open space between them i.e. no stars in the spaces.

Here's a pic showing the types of Galaxies:

*SBc is at the bottom right of the picture

Image from: http://astro.wku.edu/astr106/galaxy.html

In terms of classifying it since we can't actually see our full galaxy from a distance, scientists I would think look at our galaxy from Earth's perspective and determine the type of galaxy in that manner, i.e. looking at the center of our galaxy to see if there is a bar shape and determining whether or not there are spaces between the spiral arms.

Hope I helped :)


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