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[link] summarizes the range of masses (and other properties) of the various types of galaxies. Interestingly enough, the most and least massive galaxies are ellipticals. On average, irregular galaxies have less mass than spirals.

Characteristics of the Different Types of Galaxies
Characteristic Spirals Ellipticals Irregulars
Mass ( M Sun ) 10 9 to 10 12 10 5 to 10 13 10 8 to 10 11
Diameter (thousands of light-years) 15 to 150 3 to>700 3 to 30
Luminosity ( L Sun ) 10 8 to 10 11 10 6 to 10 11 10 7 to 2 × 10 9
Populations of stars Old and young Old Old and young
Interstellar matter Gas and dust Almost no dust; little gas Much gas; some have little dust, some much dust
Mass-to-light ratio in the visible part 2 to 10 10 to 20 1 to 10
Mass-to-light ratio for total galaxy 100 100 ?

Mass-to-light ratio

A useful way of characterizing a galaxy is by noting the ratio of its mass (in units of the Sun’s mass) to its light output (in units of the Sun’s luminosity). This single number tells us roughly what kind of stars make up most of the luminous population of the galaxy, and it also tells us whether a lot of dark matter    is present. For stars like the Sun, the mass-to-light ratio    is 1 by our definition.

Galaxies are not, of course, composed entirely of stars that are identical to the Sun. The overwhelming majority of stars are less massive and less luminous than the Sun, and usually these stars contribute most of the mass of a system without accounting for very much light. The mass-to-light ratio for low-mass stars is greater than 1 (you can verify this using the data in [link] ). Therefore, a galaxy’s mass-to-light ratio is also generally greater than 1, with the exact value depending on the ratio of high-mass stars to low-mass stars.

Galaxies in which star formation is still occurring have many massive stars, and their mass-to-light ratios are usually in the range of 1 to 10. Galaxies consisting mostly of an older stellar population, such as ellipticals, in which the massive stars have already completed their evolution and have ceased to shine, have mass-to-light ratios of 10 to 20.

But these figures refer only to the inner, conspicuous parts of galaxies ( [link] ). In The Milky Way Galaxy and above, we discussed the evidence for dark matter in the outer regions of our own Galaxy, extending much farther from the galactic center than do the bright stars and gas. Recent measurements of the rotation speeds of the outer parts of nearby galaxies, such as the Andromeda galaxy we discussed earlier, suggest that they too have extended distributions of dark matter around the visible disk of stars and dust. This largely invisible matter adds to the mass of the galaxy while contributing nothing to its luminosity, thus increasing the mass-to-light ratio. If dark invisible matter is present in a galaxy, its mass-to-light ratio can be as high as 100. The two different mass-to-light ratios measured for various types of galaxies are given in [link] .

M101, the pinwheel galaxy.

The Pinwheel Galaxy M101. A prime example of a large, face-on spiral galaxy.
This galaxy is a face-on spiral at a distance of 21 million light-years. M101 is almost twice the diameter of the Milky Way, and it contains at least 1 trillion stars. (credit: NASA, ESA, K. Kuntz (Johns Hopkins University), F. Bresolin (University of Hawaii), J. Trauger (Jet Propulsion Lab), J. Mould (NOAO), Y.-H. Chu (University of Illinois, Urbana), and STScI)

These measurements of other galaxies support the conclusion already reached from studies of the rotation of our own Galaxy—namely, that most of the material in the universe cannot at present be observed directly in any part of the electromagnetic spectrum. An understanding of the properties and distribution of this invisible matter is crucial to our understanding of galaxies. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that, through the gravitational force it exerts, dark matter plays a dominant role in galaxy formation and early evolution. There is an interesting parallel here between our time and the time during which Edwin Hubble was receiving his training in astronomy. By 1920, many scientists were aware that astronomy stood on the brink of important breakthroughs—if only the nature and behavior of the nebulae could be settled with better observations. In the same way, many astronomers today feel we may be closing in on a far more sophisticated understanding of the large-scale structure of the universe—if only we can learn more about the nature and properties of dark matter. If you follow astronomy articles in the news (as we hope you will), you should be hearing more about dark matter in the years to come.

Key concepts and summary

The masses of spiral galaxies are determined from measurements of their rates of rotation. The masses of elliptical galaxies are estimated from analyses of the motions of the stars within them. Galaxies can be characterized by their mass-to-light ratios. The luminous parts of galaxies with active star formation typically have mass-to-light ratios in the range of 1 to 10; the luminous parts of elliptical galaxies, which contain only old stars, typically have mass-to-light ratios of 10 to 20. The mass-to-light ratios of whole galaxies, including their outer regions, are as high as 100, indicating the presence of a great deal of dark matter.

Questions & Answers

what is comets , astroids ,
Sumit Reply
hi, I am yamini, I am in class 8 but very much interested in astronomy and go to NASA, what are the subjects in which I can master and lead to NASA.
yamini Reply
Hello Yamini, Im Ken and I'm avery intrested in joining the NASA too. Is nice to meet you.
Ken
very*
Ken
nice to meet u ken
yamini
What I know about the subjects is that you have to be a master on science and math, also if you know about aviation is better too
Ken
I read that the Russian language is very important, is not a requirement but it's like an extra point!
Ken
yeah like physics, chemistry and maths, they are my most favorite.
yamini
than you can go free of cost
Arush
Yes, That's right!
Ken
how
yamini
Oh! Free of cost?
Ken
hello yamini nice to meet you
Burak
what is time
Abdul Reply
Time is relative
mrunal
pls elaborate
sakshi
the clear defination.I know that.
Abdul
In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
It has been proven that there are water molecules on Mars but not enough that most lifeforms could thrive upon.
Ariana
There are huge amounts of water in the ice caps and under the surface. The surface and chemistry indicate that Mars had cosiderable amounts of water on its surface in the past.
Julius
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
What is time...? not about Newton= time is constant..... that all scientists openions n point of view I m knowing. . what can be the Perfect Definition of Time
Madhav Reply
time is what clock reads
Ayush
Who is the best astronomer of India at present time
Gian Reply
Jayant Narlikar, Proponent Of Steady State Cosmology.....
Adam
What is the real colour of sun rays
Gian Reply
white.. so white it becomes violet.. so violet it become ultraviolet
Tom
white and red and yellow
Bianca
Vibgyor
Samuel
the real colour of sunlight is White
Madhav
the Sun's has a variety of waves all throughout the elextromagnetic spectrum.
Jacie
we only see it as a few bc of how some of them get redshifted (? can that term be applied for something so local?) by some particles in our upper atmosphere
Jacie
Vibgyor will be when, the white light will pass through the clouds ( prism ) then Refraction phenomenon leads us to 7 colours splitting from a single colour "White " light
Madhav
so the sun rays r of White colour
Madhav
Taurus in astronomy and horoscope?
Yasser Reply
Practice Key Terms 1

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Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
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