10 Fun Facts About Galaxies

Galaxies are important building blocks of the Universe as we know it. Whether you know little or nada about galaxies, we’re here to help. This post will highlight 10 fun facts about galaxies that you probably didn’t know.

The Universe is home to numerous celestial bodies that are strategically distributed throughout space. Including planets, planetary systems, suns, moons, solar systems, and of course, galaxies, among others.

Photo Credit: Graham Holtshausen

Fun Fact #1: Galaxies are Almost as Old as the Universe

If you’ve ever wondered how old galaxies are, here’s the answer. Galaxies are believed to be anywhere around 13.5 billion years. They are believed to have started forming a few hundred million years after the Big Bang which occurred 13.7 billion years ago.

Fun Fact #2: Galaxies Used to Be Known as Island Universes

Philosopher, Immanuel Kant theorized that other galaxies (known as island universes) existed outside the Milky Way. Astronomers like Harlow Shapley argued otherwise. However, in the 1920s, Edwin Hubble was able to establish their existence, calling them “extragalactic nebulae.” 

Fun Fact 3#: Galaxies Comprise of Dust, Gas, and Matter

Galaxies typically consist of gas, interplanetary dust, stars, and their solar systems (including their moons, dwarf planets, asteroids, meteoroids, Kuiper belt objects, and comets, etc). All of these are gravitationally bound together.

Fun Fact #4: There are 4 Major Types of Galaxies

Galaxies come in different forms, shapes, and sizes. This has given rise to a system of classification for easy reference. The first type of galaxy is the spiral galaxy. Others include elliptical galaxies, peculiar galaxies, and irregular galaxies. 

Facts about galaxies
Photo Credit: Benjamin Voros

Fun Fact #5: Our Galaxy Goes By Different Names

Our galaxy, a.k.a the Galaxy, is generally known as the Milky Way. However, that’s not its only nomenclature. It is also known as the “Silver River” in China. In the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, it is referred to as the “Backbone of Night.”  

Fun Fact #6: Why Our Galaxy is Called the Milky Way

Our star, the Sun, is one of the billions of stars swirling in the Milky Way. It is described this way due to its appearance when viewed from earth. There’s also a Greek myth about the goddess, Hera, spraying milk across the sky.

Fun Fact #7: Galaxies are Gigantic 

Humongous doesn’t even begin to describe how monumental galaxies can be. For instance, the largest known galaxy, Alcyoneus, has a diameter of 16.3 million light-years, that’s nearly 3x the nearest contender, the IC 1011 with a diameter of 6 million light-years. 

Fun Fact #8: Galaxies are Numerous

From assuming that the Milky Way was the only galaxy, we now know that there are in fact, billions of galaxies out there. Each of these galaxies also contains numerous stars. For instance, the largest galaxy contains 100 trillion stars.  

Fun Fact #9: You Can See Some Galaxies With the Naked Eyes

Yes, you can view up to two galaxies with unaided eyes. These are our own Milky Way and the Andromeda galaxy. Although you won’t be able to view it in full, you can still see parts of them in a clear night sky.

Fun Fact #10: This is the Loneliest Galaxy in the Universe

Galaxies typically exist in groups or clusters. Each cluster can accommodate 100 to 1, 000 galaxies. These are also much larger superclusters, as well as superclusters of superclusters. But the NGC 503 is an exception. It holds the title of the world’s loneliest galaxy!

Now That You Know

Now that you know more fun facts about galaxies, we invite you to explore more about galaxies vs the universe. This will help to broaden your knowledge about how galaxies and the universe relate and function.