Deep space: What shape is the Milky Way?

Did You Know: Space – What shape is the Milky Way?

Our solar system is in the Milky Way galaxy.

Galaxies, like planets and stars, are constantly spinning through space and hold many solar systems within them. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy with arms that are made of clumps of stars.

Bright arms

The arms shine brightly because they are full of very bright young stars.

Dust clouds

As well as stars, galaxies are made up of huge quantities of dust and gas.


All of the stars in a galaxy travel around a central point. In many galaxies this is a supermassive black hole.

What other galaxy shapes are there?


Elliptical galaxies are egg-shaped and have no arms. The smallest and largest galaxies in the universe are elliptical. This elliptical galaxy, called M87, was discovered in the year 1781.


Galaxies with no particular shape are called irregular galaxies. The galaxy shown here, called NGC 1569, is one example. They come in a range of different shapes and sizes.