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Utah Skies: Galaxies

Bruce Horrocks

Springtime is galaxy season for astronomers. As the days grow longer the night sky offers an opportunity to observe a wide selection of some of the best galaxies to be seen.

Many of these galaxies have names that may seem fitting as you look at the shape and characteristics of each one. There is the Whirlpool Galaxy, the Blackeye Galaxy, the Sombrero Galaxy, and the Needle Galaxy. Each of these contains an average of 250 billion stars and maybe even much more.

While each galaxy may be of a different size or shape, it is believed that at the center of each large galaxy is a black hole. In our own Milky Way Galaxy that black hole may have a mass of four million times that of our sun. In a recent study, scientists have estimated that our observable universe may contain over two trillion galaxies.

Galaxies are generally categorized into three classes. There are spiral galaxies, which is the kind we are most familiar with when we think of a galaxy. Elliptical galaxies, which are generally older and no longer have dust lanes, and then there are the irregular galaxies which have a variety of shapes due to lack of formation or as a result of gravitational pull from other galaxies.

Whatever type of galaxy you enjoy, now is the time to dust that telescope off and move outside to enjoy a few of these stunning deep-sky objects. And those without a telescope our own Milky Way Galaxy can provide you with some wonderful star gazing opportunities. Just find a dark spot on a moonless night and enjoy a night full of stars.