Lenticular galaxy

A lenticular galaxy (denoted S0) is a type of galaxy intermediate between an elliptical (denoted E) and a spiral galaxy in galaxy morphological classification schemes.[1] They contain large-scale discs but they do not have large-scale spiral arms. Lenticular galaxies are disc galaxies that have used up or lost most of their interstellar matter and therefore have very little ongoing star formation.[2] They may, however, retain significant dust in their disks. As a result, they consist mainly of aging stars (like elliptical galaxies). Despite the morphological differences, lenticular and elliptical galaxies share common properties like spectral features and scaling relations. Both can be considered early-type galaxies that are passively evolving, at least in the local part of the Universe. Connecting the E galaxies with the S0 galaxies are the ES galaxies with intermediate-scale discs.[3]

Ngc5866 hst big
The Spindle Galaxy (NGC 5866), a lenticular galaxy in the Draco constellation. This image shows that lenticular galaxies may retain a considerable amount of dust in their disk. There is little to no gas and thus they are considered deficient in interstellar matter.

Morphology and structure


Grid showing the location of early-type galaxies (including the lenticular S0 galaxies) relative to the late-type spiral galaxies. The horizontal axis shows the morphological type, primarily dictated by the nature of the spiral arms.
The percentage of galaxies with a particular axis ratio (minor/major) for a sample of lenticular and spiral galaxies. The inset is a visual representation of the profile of either at the specified minor (b) to major (a) axis ratios.[4]

Lenticular galaxies are unique in that they have a visible disk component as well as a prominent bulge component. They have much higher bulge-to-disk ratios than typical spirals and do not have the canonical spiral arm structure of late-type[note 1] galaxies, yet may exhibit a central bar.[4] This bulge dominance can be seen in the axis ratio (i.e. the ratio between the observed minor and major axial of a disk galaxy) distribution of a lenticular galaxy sample. The distribution for lenticular galaxies rises steadily in the range 0.25 to 0.85 whereas the distribution for spirals is essentially flat in that same range.[5] Larger axial ratios can be explained by observing face-on disk galaxies or by having a sample of spheroidal (bulge-dominated) galaxies. Imagine looking at two disk galaxies edge-on, one with a bulge and one without a bulge. The galaxy with a prominent bulge will have a larger edge-on axial ratio compared to the galaxy without a bulge based on the definition of axial ratio. Thus a sample of disk galaxies with prominent spheroidal components will have more galaxies at larger axial ratios. The fact that the lenticular galaxy distribution rises with increasing observed axial ratio implies that lenticulars are dominated by a central bulge component.[4]

Lenticular galaxies are often considered to be a poorly understood transition state between spiral and elliptical galaxies, which results in their intermediate placement on the Hubble sequence. This results from lenticulars having both prominent disk and bulge components. The disk component is usually featureless, which precludes a classification system similar to spiral galaxies. As the bulge component is usually spherical, elliptical galaxy classifications are also unsuitable. Lenticular galaxies are thus divided into subclasses based upon either the amount of dust present or the prominence of a central bar. The classes of lenticular galaxies with no bar are S01, S02, and S03 where the subscripted numbers indicate the amount of dust absorption in the disk component; the corresponding classes for lenticulars with a central bar are SB01, SB02, and SB03.[4]

Sérsic decomposition

NGC 2787
NGC 2787 is an example of a lenticular galaxy with visible dust absorption. While this galaxy has been classified as an S0 galaxy, one can see the difficulty in differentiating between spirals, ellipticals, and lenticulars. Credit: HST

The surface brightness profiles of lenticular galaxies are well described by the sum of a Sérsic model for the spheroidal component plus an exponentially declining model (Sérsic index of n ≈ 1) for the disk, and often a third component for the bar.[6] Sometimes there is an observed truncation in the surface brightness profiles of lenticular galaxies at ~ 4 disk scalelengths.[7] These features are consistent with the general structure of spiral galaxies. However, the bulge component of lenticulars is more closely related to elliptical galaxies in terms of morphological classification. This spheroidal region, which dominates the inner structure of lenticular galaxies, has a steeper surface brightness profile (Sérsic index typically ranging from n = 1 to 4)[8][9] than the disk component. Lenticular galaxy samples are distinguishable from the diskless (excluding small nuclear disks) elliptical galaxy population through analysis of their surface brightness profiles.[10]


Like spiral galaxies, lenticular galaxies can possess a central bar structure. While the classification system for normal lenticulars depends on dust content, barred lenticular galaxies are classified by the prominence of the central bar. SB01 galaxies have the least defined bar structure and are only classified as having slightly enhanced surface brightness along opposite sides of the central bulge. The prominence of the bar increases with index number, thus SB03 galaxies have very well defined bars that can extend through the transition region between the bulge and disk.[4] Unfortunately, the properties of bars in lenticular galaxies have not been researched in great detail. Understanding these properties, as well as understanding the formation mechanism for bars, would help clarify the formation or evolution history of lenticular galaxies.[7]


Hubble image of ESO 381-12
Hubble image of ESO 381-12.[11]

In many respects the composition of lenticular galaxies is like that of ellipticals. For example, they both consist of predominately older, hence redder, stars. All of their stars are thought to be older than about a billion years, in agreement with their offset from the Tully–Fisher relation (see below). In addition to these general stellar attributes, globular clusters are found more frequently in lenticular galaxies than in spiral galaxies of similar mass and luminosity. They also have little to no molecular gas (hence the lack of star formation) and no significant hydrogen α or 21-cm emission. Finally, unlike ellipticals, they may still possess significant dust.[4]


Measurement difficulties and techniques

NGC 4866 is a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation of Virgo.[12]

Lenticular galaxies share kinematic properties with both spiral and elliptical galaxies.[13] This is due to the significant bulge and disk nature of lenticulars. The bulge component is similar to elliptical galaxies in that it is pressure supported by a central velocity dispersion. This situation is analogous to a balloon, where the motions of the air particles (stars in a bulge's case) are dominated by random motions. However, the kinematics of lenticular galaxies are dominated by the rotationally supported disk. Rotation support implies the average circular motion of stars in the disk is responsible for the stability of the galaxy. Thus, kinematics are often used to distinguish lenticular galaxies from elliptical galaxies. Determining the distinction between elliptical galaxies and lenticular galaxies often relies on the measurements of velocity dispersion (σ), rotational velocity (v), and ellipticity (ε).[13] In order to differentiate between lenticulars and ellipticals, one typically looks at the v/σ ratio for a fixed ε. For example, a rough criterion for distinguishing between lenticular and elliptical galaxies is that elliptical galaxies have v/σ < 0.5 for ε = 0.3.[13] The motivation behind this criterion is that lenticular galaxies do have prominent bulge and disk components whereas elliptical galaxies have no disk structure. Thus, lenticulars have much larger v/σ ratios than ellipticals due to their non-negligible rotational velocities (due to the disk component) in addition to not having as prominent of a bulge component compared to elliptical galaxies. However, this approach using a single ratio for each galaxy is problematic due to the dependence of the v/σ ratio on the radius out to which it is measured in some early-type galaxies. For example, the ES galaxies that bridge the E and S0 galaxies, with their intermediate-scale disks, have a high v/σ ratio at intermediate radii that then drops to a low ratio at large radii.[14][15]

The kinematics of disk galaxies are usually determined by or 21-cm emission lines, which are typically not present in lenticular galaxies due to their general lack of cool gas.[7] Thus kinematic information and rough mass estimates for lenticular galaxies often comes from stellar absorption lines, which are less reliable than emission line measurements. There is also a considerable amount of difficulty in deriving accurate rotational velocities for lenticular galaxies. This is a combined effect from lenticulars having difficult inclination measurements, projection effects in the bulge-disk interface region, and the random motions of stars affecting the true rotational velocities.[16] These effects make kinematic measurements of lenticular galaxies considerably more difficult compared to normal disk galaxies.

Offset Tully–Fisher relation

This plot illustrates the Tully–Fisher relation for a spiral galaxy sample (black) as well as a lenticular galaxy sample (blue).[17] One can see how the best-fit line for spiral galaxies differs from the best-fit line for lenticular galaxies.[18]

The kinematic connection between spiral and lenticular galaxies is most clear when analyzing the Tully–Fisher relation for spiral and lenticular samples. If lenticular galaxies are an evolved stage of spiral galaxies then they should have a similar Tully–Fisher relation with spirals, but with an offset in the luminosity / absolute magnitude axis. This would result from brighter, redder stars dominating the stellar populations of lenticulars. An example of this effect can be seen in the adjacent plot.[7] One can clearly see that the best-fit lines for the spiral galaxy data and the lenticular galaxy have the same slope (and thus follow the same Tully–Fisher relation), but are offset by ΔI ≈ 1.5. This implies that lenticular galaxies were once spiral galaxies but are now dominated by old, red stars.

Formation theories

The morphology and kinematics of lenticular galaxies each, to a degree, suggest a mode of galaxy formation. Their disk-like, possibly dusty, appearance suggests they come from faded spiral galaxies, whose arm features disappeared. However, some lenticular galaxies are more luminous than spiral galaxies, which suggests that they are not merely the faded remnants of spiral galaxies. Lenticular galaxies might result from a galaxy merger, which increase the total stellar mass and might give the newly merged galaxy a disk-like, arm-less appearance.[7] Alternatively, it has been proposed[19] that they grew their disks via (gas and minor merger) accretion events. It had previously been suggested that the evolution of luminous lenticular galaxies may be closely linked to that of elliptical galaxies, whereas fainter lenticulars might be more closely associated with ram-pressure stripped spiral galaxies[20], although this latter galaxy harassment scenario has since been queried due to the existence[21] of extremely isolated, low-luminosity lenticular galaxies such as LEDA 2108986.

Faded spirals

The absence of gas, presence of dust, lack of recent star formation, and rotational support are all attributes one might expect of a spiral galaxy which had used up all of its gas in the formation of stars.[7] This possibility is further enhanced by the existence of gas poor, or "anemic," spiral galaxies. If the spiral pattern then dissipated the resulting galaxy would be similar to many lenticulars.[22] Moore et al. also document that tidal harassment - the gravitational effects from other, near-by galaxies - could aid this process in dense regions.[23] The clearest support for this theory, however, is their adherence to slightly shifted version of Tully–Fisher relation, discussed above.

A 2012 paper that suggests a new classification system, first proposed by the Canadian astronomer Sidney van den Bergh, for lenticular and dwarf spheroidal galaxies (S0a-S0b-S0c-dSph) that parallels the Hubble sequence for spirals and irregulars (Sa-Sb-Sc-Im) reinforces this idea showing how the spiral–irregular sequence is very similar to this new one for lenticulars and dwarf ellipticals.[24]


The analyses of Burstein[25] and Sandage[26] showed that lenticular galaxies typically have surface brightness much greater than other spiral classes. It is also thought that lenticular galaxies exhibit a larger bulge-to-disk ratio than spiral galaxies and this may be inconsistent with simple fading from a spiral.[27][28] If S0s were formed by mergers of other spirals these observations would be fitting and it would also account for the increased frequency of globular clusters. It should be mentioned, however, that advanced models of the central bulge which include both a general Sersic profile and bar indicate a smaller bulge,[29] and thus a lessened inconsistency. Mergers are also unable to account for the offset from the Tully–Fisher relation without assuming that the merged galaxies were quite different from those we see today.

Disk growth via accretion

The creation of disks in, at least some, lenticular galaxies via the accretion of gas, and small galaxies, around a pre-existing spheroidal structure was first suggested as an explanation to match the high-redshift compact massive spheroidal-shaped galaxies with the equally compact massive bulges seen in nearby massive lenticular galaxies.[30] In a "down-sizing" scenario, bigger lenticular galaxies may have been built first - in a younger universe when more gas was available - and the lower-mass galaxies may have been slower to attract their disk-building material, as in the case of the isolated early-type galaxy LEDA 2108986. Of course, within galaxy clusters, ram-pressure stripping removes gas and prevents the accretion of new gas that might be capable of furthering the development of the disk.



A greedy giant

NGC 1222 contains three compact regions.[31]

Lenticular galaxy PGC 83677

PGC 83677 image obtained as part of the Coma Cluster Survey.[32]

Busy bees

Lenticular galaxy NGC 5308 is located just under 100 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major.[33]

Elegance conceals an eventful past

NGC 4111 is a lenticular galaxy, lying about 50 million light-years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici.[34]

At the centre of the tuning fork Mrk 820

Mrk 820 is a lenticular galaxy classified as type S0 on the Hubble Tuning Fork.[35]

A fascinating core

Messier 84 is a lenticular galaxy also known for its supernovae.[36]

The third way of galaxies

NGC 6861 is a lenticular galaxy discovered in 1826 by the Scottish astronomer James Dunlop.[37]

See also

  • Spindle galaxy – A class of galaxy that is cigar shaped and rotates around its long axis


  1. ^ Galaxies to the left side of the Hubble classification scheme are sometimes referred to as "early-type", while those to the right are "late-type".


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List of NGC objects (1–1000)

This is a list of NGC objects 1–1000 from the New General Catalogue (NGC). The astronomical catalogue is composed mainly of star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. Other objects in the catalogue can be found in the other subpages of the list of NGC objects.

The constellation information in these tables is from The Complete New General Catalogue and Index Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters by J. L. E. Dreyer, which was accessed using the VizieR Service. Galaxy morphological types and objects that are members of the Small Magellanic Cloud are identified using the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database. The other data of these tables are from the SIMBAD Astronomical Database unless otherwise stated.

List of NGC objects (7001–7840)

This is a list of NGC objects 7001–7840 from the New General Catalogue (NGC). The astronomical catalogue is composed mainly of star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies. Other objects in the catalogue can be found in the other subpages of the list of NGC objects.

The constellation information in these tables is taken from The Complete New General Catalogue and Index Catalogue of Nebulae and Star Clusters by J. L. E. Dreyer, which was accessed using the "VizieR Service". Galaxy types are identified using the NASA/IPAC Extragalactic Database. The other data of these tables are from the SIMBAD Astronomical Database unless otherwise stated.

Messier 84

Messier 84 or M84, also known as NGC 4374, is an elliptical or lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo. Charles Messier discovered Messier 84 on 18 March 1781 in a systematic search for "nebulous objects" in the night sky. The object is the 84th in the Messier Catalogue. M84 is situated in the heavily populated inner core of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies.This is a giant elliptical galaxy with a morphological classification of E1, indicating a flattening of 10%. The half-light radius is 72.5″ and the extinction-corrected total luminosity in the visual band is 7.64×1010 L☉. The central mass-to-light ratio is 6.5, which steadily increases away from the core. The visible galaxy is surrounded by a massive dark matter halo.Radio observations and Hubble Space Telescope images of M84 have revealed two jets of matter shooting out from the galaxy's center as well as a disk of rapidly rotating gas and stars indicating the presence of a 1.5 ×109 M☉ supermassive black hole. It also has a few young stars and star clusters, indicating star formation at a very low rate. The number of globular clusters is 1,775±150, which is much lower than expected for an elliptical galaxy.Two supernovae have been observed in M84: SN 1957

and SN 1991bg. Possibly, a third, SN 1980I is part of M84 or, alternatively, one of its neighboring galaxies, NGC 4387 and M86. This high rate of supernova events is rare for elliptical galaxies, which may indicate there is a population of stars of intermediate age in M84.

Messier 85

Messier 85 (also known as M85 or NGC 4382 or PGC 40515 or ISD 0135852) is a lenticular galaxy, or elliptical galaxy for other authors, in the Coma Berenices constellation. It is 60 million light-years away, and it is estimated to be 125,000 light-years across.

It was discovered by Pierre Méchain in 1781. It is the northernmost outlier of the Virgo cluster discovered as of 2004.

Messier 86

Messier 86 (also known as M86 or NGC 4406) is an elliptical or lenticular galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It was discovered by Charles Messier in 1781. M86 lies in the heart of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies and forms a most conspicuous group with another large galaxy known as Messier 84. It displays the highest blue shift of all Messier objects, as it is approaching the Milky Way at 244 km/s. This is due to its falling towards the center of the Virgo cluster from the opposite side, which causes it to move in the direction of the Milky Way.Messier 86 is linked by several filaments of ionized gas to the severely disrupted spiral galaxy NGC 4438 and shows some gas and interstellar dust that may have been stripped of it like the one present in those filaments. It is also suffering ram-pressure stripping as it moves at high speed through Virgo's intracluster medium, losing its interstellar medium and leaving behind a very long trail of X ray-emitting hot gas that has been detected with the help of the Chandra space telescope.Messier 86 has a rich system of globular clusters, with a total number of around 3,800. Its halo also has a number of stellar streams interpreted as remmants of dwarf galaxies that have been disrupted and absorbed by this galaxy.

NGC 108

NGC 108 is a lenticular galaxy that is located at approximately 220 million light-years away in the constellation of Andromeda. It was discovered by William Herschel on September 11, 1784.

NGC 117

NGC 117 is a lenticular galaxy of type S0(r)a with a magnitude of 14.3 in the constellation Cetus.

NGC 1316

NGC 1316 (also known as Fornax A) is a lenticular galaxy about 60 million light-years away in the constellation Fornax It is a radio galaxy and at 1400 MHz is the fourth-brightest radio source in the sky.

NGC 193

NGC 193 is a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation Pisces. It was discovered on December 21, 1786 by William Herschel.

NGC 215

NGC 215 is a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation Phoenix. It was discovered on October 28, 1834 by John Herschel.

NGC 244

NGC 244 is a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation Cetus. It was discovered on December 30, 1785 by William Herschel.

NGC 252

NGC 252 is a lenticular galaxy located in the constellation Andromeda. It was discovered by William Herschel in 1786.

NGC 258

NGC 258 is a lenticular galaxy located in the Andromeda constellation. It was discovered by George Stoney in 1848.

NGC 270

NGC 270 is a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Cetus. It was discovered on December 10, 1798 by William Herschel.

NGC 4526

NGC 4526 (also listed as NGC 4560) is a lenticular galaxy located approximately 55 million light-years from the Solar System in the Virgo constellation and discovered on 13 April 1784 by William Herschel.The galaxy is seen nearly edge-on. The morphological classification is SAB(s)0°, which indicates a lenticular structure with a weak bar across the center and pure spiral arms without a ring. It belongs to the Virgo cluster and is one of the brightest known lenticular galaxies.

In the galaxy's outer halo,

globular cluster orbital velocities

indicate abnormal poverty of dark matter:

only 43±18% of the mass within 5 effective radii.

The inner nucleus of this galaxy displays a rise in stellar orbital motion that indicates the presence of a central dark mass. The best fit model for the motion of molecular gas in the core region suggests there is a supermassive black hole with about 4.5+4.2−3.0×108 (450 million) times the mass of the Sun. This is the first object to have its black-hole mass estimated by measuring the rotation of gas molecules around its centre with an Astronomical interferometer (in this case the Combined Array for Research in Millimeter-wave Astronomy).

Supernova SN 1969E was discovered in this galaxy in 1969, reaching a peak magnitude of 16. In 1994, a Type 1a supernova was discovered about two weeks before reaching peak brightness. Designated SN 1994D, it was caused by the explosion of a white dwarf star composed of carbon and oxygen.

NGC 4754

NGC 4754 is a barred lenticular galaxy located about 53 million light-years away in the constellation of Virgo. NGC 4754 was discovered by astronomer William Herschel on March 15, 1784. It forms a non-interacting pair with the edge-on lenticular galaxy NGC 4762. NGC 4754 is a member of the Virgo Cluster.

NGC 5102

NGC 5102 is a galaxy in the M83 group of galaxies. It was discovered by John Herschel in 1835.

NGC 96

NGC 96 is a lenticular galaxy estimated to be about 290 million light-years away in the constellation of Andromeda. It was discovered by Guillaume Bigourdan in 1884 and its apparent magnitude is 17.

Unbarred lenticular galaxy

An unbarred lenticular galaxy is a lenticular version of an unbarred spiral galaxy. They have the Hubble type of SA0.

An example of this is the Galaxy AM 0644-741. For other examples see Category:Unbarred lenticular galaxies.

Active nuclei
Energetic galaxies
Low activity
See also

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