Galaxy Fundamentals

What is an elliptical galaxy?

An elliptical galaxy is a galaxy that appears to be an ellipse from our point of view. The ellipticity of the galaxy—how round or flat it is—varies greatly in ellipticals, so they can look like anything from perfect spheres to long cigars. Based on observations and theoretical models, astronomers think that the three-dimensional shape of elliptical galaxies are triaxial; that is, they each can have a length, width, and height that are all different from one another. So ellipticals can be shaped like gigantic basketballs, rugby balls, ostrich eggs, cough drops, Tic-Tacs®, and anywhere in between.


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