Galaxy color–magnitude diagram

The galaxy color–magnitude diagram shows the relationship between absolute magnitude (a measure of luminosity) and mass of galaxies. A preliminary description of the three areas of this diagram was made in 2003 by Eric F. Bell et al. from the COMBO-17 survey[1] that clarified the bimodal distribution of red and blue galaxies as seen in analysis of Sloan Digital Sky Survey data[2] and even in de Vaucouleurs' 1961 analyses of galaxy morphology.[3]

Noticed in this diagram are three main features: the red sequence, the green valley, and the blue cloud. The red sequence includes most red galaxies which are generally elliptical galaxies. The blue cloud includes most blue galaxies which are generally spirals. In between the two distributions is an underpopulated space known as the green valley which includes a number of red spirals.

Unlike the comparable Hertzsprung–Russell diagram for stars, galaxy properties are not necessarily completely determined by their location on the color–magnitude diagram. The diagram also shows considerable evolution through time. The red sequence earlier in evolution of the universe was more constant in color across magnitudes and the blue cloud was not as uniformly distributed but showed sequence progression.

A Deep Look into a Dark Sky
One of five patches of sky covered by the COMBO-17 survey.[4]

New research suggests the green valley is actually composed of two different populations of galaxies: one of late-type galaxies, where star formation has been quenched due to their gas supplies being shut off followed by exhaustion of their gas reservoirs for several billion years, and another of early-type galaxies where both the gas supplies and gas reservoirs have been destroyed very quickly, likely because of mergers with other galaxies and/or the presence of an active galactic nucleus.[5]

The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are assumed to lie in the green valley because their star formation is slowing down due to running out of gas.[6]

Galaxy color-magnitude diagram
A mock-up of the galaxy color–magnitude diagram with three populations: the red sequence, the blue cloud, and the green valley.


  1. ^ Bell, Eric F. et al. Nearly 5000 Distant Early‐Type Galaxies in COMBO‐17: A Red Sequence and Its Evolution since z=1, The Astrophysical Journal, 608:752–767, 2004 June 20. [1]
  2. ^ Strateva, I., et al. Color Separation of Galaxy Types in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey Imaging Data, 2001, The Astronomical Journal, 122, 1861 [2]
  3. ^ de Vaucouleurs, G. Integrated Colors of Bright Galaxies in the u, b, V System. 1961, The Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series, 5, 233. [3]
  4. ^ "A Deep Look into a Dark Sky". ESO Picture of the Week. Retrieved 8 August 2014.
  5. ^ Schawinski, Kevin; Urry, C. Megan; Simmons, Brooke D.; Fortson, Lucy; Kaviraj, Sugata; Keel, William C.; Lintott, Chris J.; Masters, Karen L.; Nichol, Robert C.; Sarzi, Marc; Ramin; Skibba; Treister, Ezequiel; Willett, Kyle W.; Wong, O. Ivy; Yi, Sukyoung K. (2014). "The Green Valley is a Red Herring: Galaxy Zoo reveals two evolutionary pathways towards quenching of star formation in early- and late-type galaxies". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 440 (1): 889. arXiv:1402.4814. Bibcode:2014MNRAS.440..889S. doi:10.1093/mnras/stu327.
  6. ^ Mutch, S.J.; Croton, D.J.; Poole, G.B. (2011). "The Mid-life Crisis of the Milky Way and M31". The Astrophysical Journal. 736 (2): 84. arXiv:1105.2564. Bibcode:2011ApJ...736...84M. doi:10.1088/0004-637X/736/2/84.
Andromeda Galaxy

The Andromeda Galaxy (), also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, is a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kiloparsecs (2.5 million light-years) from Earth, and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. Its name stems from the area of the Earth's sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda.

The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that the Andromeda Galaxy contains approximately one trillion stars, more than twice the number of the Milky Way's estimated 200 to 400 billion stars. The Andromeda Galaxy's mass is estimated to be around 1.76 times that of the Milky Way Galaxy (~0.8-1.5×1012 solar masses vs the Milky Way's 8.5×1011 solar masses), though a 2018 study found that the Andromeda Galaxy's mass is roughly the same as the Milky Way's. The Andromeda Galaxy, spanning approximately 220,000 light-years, is the largest galaxy in the Local Group, which is also home to the Triangulum Galaxy and other minor galaxies.

The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are expected to collide in ~4.5 billion years, merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy or a large disc galaxy.

With an apparent magnitude of 3.4, the Andromeda Galaxy is among the brightest of the Messier objects making it visible to the naked eye from Earth on moonless nights, even when viewed from areas with moderate light pollution.

Coma Filament

Coma Filament is a galaxy filament. The filament contains the Coma Supercluster of galaxies and forms a part of the CfA2 Great Wall.

Elliptical galaxy

An elliptical galaxy is a type of galaxy with an approximately ellipsoidal shape and a smooth, nearly featureless image. They are one of the three main classes of galaxy described by Edwin Hubble in his Hubble sequence and 1936 work The Realm of the Nebulae, along with spiral and lenticular galaxies.

Elliptical (E) galaxies are, together with lenticular galaxies (S0) with their large-scale disks, and ES galaxies with their intermediate scale disks, a subset of the "early-type" galaxy population.

Most elliptical galaxies are composed of older, low-mass stars, with a sparse interstellar medium and minimal star formation activity, and they tend to be surrounded by large numbers of globular clusters. Elliptical galaxies are believed to make up approximately 10%–15% of galaxies in the Virgo Supercluster, and they are not the dominant type of galaxy in the universe overall. They are preferentially found close to the centers of galaxy clusters.Elliptical galaxies range in size from tens of millions to over one hundred trillion stars. Originally, Edwin Hubble hypothesized that elliptical galaxies evolved into spiral galaxies, which was later discovered to be false, although the accretion of gas and smaller galaxies may build a disk around a pre-existing ellipsoidal structure.

Stars found inside of elliptical galaxies are on average much older than stars found in spiral galaxies.

Extragalactic astronomy

Extragalactic astronomy is the branch of astronomy concerned with objects outside the Milky Way galaxy. In other words, it is the study of all astronomical objects which are not covered by galactic astronomy.

As instrumentation has improved, distant objects can now be examined in more detail. It is therefore useful to sub-divide this branch into Near-Extragalactic Astronomy and Far-Extragalactic Astronomy. The former deals with objects such as the galaxies of the Local Group, which are close enough to allow very detailed analyses of their contents (e.g. supernova remnants, stellar associations).

Some topics include:

Galaxy groups

Galaxy clusters, Superclusters

Galaxy filaments

Active galactic nuclei, Quasars

Radio galaxies


Intergalactic stars

Intergalactic dust

the observable universe

Galaxy formation and evolution

The study of galaxy formation and evolution is concerned with the processes that formed a heterogeneous universe from a homogeneous beginning, the formation of the first galaxies, the way galaxies change over time, and the processes that have generated the variety of structures observed in nearby galaxies. Galaxy formation is hypothesized to occur from structure formation theories, as a result of tiny quantum fluctuations in the aftermath of the Big Bang. The simplest model in general agreement with observed phenomena is the Lambda-CDM model—that is, that clustering and merging allows galaxies to accumulate mass, determining both their shape and structure.

Galaxy morphological classification

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.

Gérard de Vaucouleurs

Gérard Henri de Vaucouleurs (25 April 1918 – 7 October 1995) was a French astronomer.

Hertzsprung–Russell diagram

The Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, abbreviated as H–R diagram, HR diagram or HRD, is a scatter plot of stars showing the relationship between the stars' absolute magnitudes or luminosities versus their stellar classifications or effective temperatures. More simply, it plots each star on a graph plotting the star's brightness against its temperature (color).

The diagram was created circa 1910 by Ejnar Hertzsprung and Henry Norris Russell and represents a major step towards an understanding of stellar evolution.

The related color–magnitude diagram (CMD) plots the apparent magnitudes of stars against their color, usually for a cluster so that the stars are all at the same distance.

Hubble sequence

The Hubble sequence is a morphological classification scheme for galaxies invented by Edwin Hubble in 1926. It is often known colloquially as the Hubble tuning fork diagram because of the shape in which it is traditionally represented.

Hubble’s scheme divides regular galaxies into three broad classes – ellipticals, lenticulars and spirals – based on their visual appearance (originally on photographic plates). A fourth class contains galaxies with an irregular appearance. The Hubble sequence is the most commonly used system for classifying galaxies, both in professional astronomical research and in amateur astronomy.

Lynx–Ursa Major Filament

Lynx–Ursa Major Filament (LUM Filament) is a galaxy filament.The filament is connected to and separate from the Lynx–Ursa Major Supercluster.

Milky Way

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains our Solar System. The name describes the galaxy's appearance from Earth: a hazy band of light seen in the night sky formed from stars that cannot be individually distinguished by the naked eye. The term Milky Way is a translation of the Latin via lactea, from the Greek γαλαξίας κύκλος (galaxías kýklos, "milky circle"). From Earth, the Milky Way appears as a band because its disk-shaped structure is viewed from within. Galileo Galilei first resolved the band of light into individual stars with his telescope in 1610. Until the early 1920s, most astronomers thought that the Milky Way contained all the stars in the Universe. Following the 1920 Great Debate between the astronomers Harlow Shapley and Heber Curtis, observations by Edwin Hubble showed that the Milky Way is just one of many galaxies.

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a diameter between 150,000 and 200,000 light-years (ly). It is estimated to contain 100–400 billion stars and more than 100 billion planets. The Solar System is located at a radius of 26,490 (± 100) light-years from the Galactic Center, on the inner edge of the Orion Arm, one of the spiral-shaped concentrations of gas and dust. The stars in the innermost 10,000 light-years form a bulge and one or more bars that radiate from the bulge. The galactic center is an intense radio source known as Sagittarius A*, assumed to be a supermassive black hole of 4.100 (± 0.034) million solar masses.

Stars and gases at a wide range of distances from the Galactic Center orbit at approximately 220 kilometers per second. The constant rotation speed contradicts the laws of Keplerian dynamics and suggests that much (about 90%) of the mass of the Milky Way is invisible to telescopes, neither emitting nor absorbing electromagnetic radiation. This conjectural mass has been termed "dark matter". The rotational period is about 240 million years at the radius of the Sun. The Milky Way as a whole is moving at a velocity of approximately 600 km per second with respect to extragalactic frames of reference. The oldest stars in the Milky Way are nearly as old as the Universe itself and thus probably formed shortly after the Dark Ages of the Big Bang.The Milky Way has several satellite galaxies and is part of the Local Group of galaxies, which form part of the Virgo Supercluster, which is itself a component of the Laniakea Supercluster.

Perseus–Pegasus Filament

Perseus–Pegasus Filament is a galaxy filament containing the Perseus-Pisces Supercluster and stretching for roughly a billion light years (or over 300/h Mpc). Currently, it is considered to be one of the largest known structures in the universe. This filament is adjacent to the Pisces–Cetus Supercluster Complex.

Radio Galaxy Zoo

Radio Galaxy Zoo (RGZ) is an internet crowdsourced citizen science project that seeks to locate supermassive black holes in distant galaxies. It is hosted by the web portal Zooniverse. The scientific team want to identify black hole/jet pairs and associate them with the host galaxies. Using a large number of classifications provided by citizen scientists they hope to build a more complete picture of black holes at various stages and their origin. It was initiated in 2010 by Ray Norris in collaboration with the Zooniverse team, and was driven by the need to cross-identify the millions of extragalactic radio sources that will be discovered by the forthcoming Evolutionary Map of the Universe survey. RGZ is now led by scientists Julie Banfield and Ivy Wong. RGZ started operations on 17 December 2013.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey or SDSS is a major multi-spectral imaging and spectroscopic redshift survey using a dedicated 2.5-m wide-angle optical telescope at Apache Point Observatory in New Mexico, United States. The project was named after the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which contributed significant funding.

Data collection began in 2000; the final imaging data release (DR9) covers over 35% of the sky, with photometric observations of around nearly 1 billion objects, while the survey continues to acquire spectra, having so far taken spectra of over 4 million objects. The main galaxy sample has a median redshift of z = 0.1; there are redshifts for luminous red galaxies as far as z = 0.7, and for quasars as far as z = 5; and the imaging survey has been involved in the detection of quasars beyond a redshift z = 6.

Data release 8 (DR8), released in January 2011, includes all photometric observations taken with the SDSS imaging camera, covering 14,555 square degrees on the sky (just over 35% of the full sky). Data release 9 (DR9), released to the public on 31 July 2012, includes the first results from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) spectrograph, including over 800,000 new spectra. Over 500,000 of the new spectra are of objects in the Universe 7 billion years ago (roughly half the age of the universe). Data release 10 (DR10), released to the public on 31 July 2013, includes all data from previous releases, plus the first results from the APO Galactic Evolution Experiment (APOGEE) spectrograph, including over 57,000 high-resolution infrared spectra of stars in the Milky Way. DR10 also includes over 670,000 new BOSS spectra of galaxies and quasars in the distant universe. The publicly available images from the survey were made between 1998 and 2009.

Spiral galaxy

Spiral galaxies form a class of galaxy originally described by Edwin Hubble in his 1936 work The Realm of the Nebulae and, as such, form part of the Hubble sequence. Most spiral galaxies consist of a flat, rotating disk containing stars, gas and dust, and a central concentration of stars known as the bulge. These are often surrounded by a much fainter halo of stars, many of which reside in globular clusters.

Spiral galaxies are named by their spiral structures that extend from the center into the galactic disc. The spiral arms are sites of ongoing star formation and are brighter than the surrounding disc because of the young, hot OB stars that inhabit them.

Roughly two-thirds of all spirals are observed to have an additional component in the form of a bar-like structure, extending from the central bulge, at the ends of which the spiral arms begin. The proportion of barred spirals relative to their barless cousins has likely changed over the history of the Universe, with only about 10% containing bars about 8 billion years ago, to roughly a quarter 2.5 billion years ago, until present, where over two-thirds of the galaxies in the visible universe (Hubble volume) have bars.Our own Milky Way is a barred spiral, although the bar itself is difficult to observe from the Earth's current position within the galactic disc. The most convincing evidence for the stars forming a bar in the galactic center comes from several recent surveys, including the Spitzer Space Telescope.Together with irregular galaxies, spiral galaxies make up approximately 60% of galaxies in today's universe. They are mostly found in low-density regions and are rare in the centers of galaxy clusters.

Ursa Major Filament

Ursa Major Filament is a galaxy filament. The filament is connected to the CfA Homunculus, a portion of the filament forms a portion of the "leg" of the Homunculus.

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