A galaxy group or group of galaxies (GrG) is an aggregation of galaxies comprising about 50 or fewer gravitationally bound members, each at least as luminous as the Milky Way (about 1010 times the luminosity of the Sun); collections of galaxies larger than groups that are first-order clustering are called galaxy clusters. The groups and clusters of galaxies can themselves be clustered, into superclusters of galaxies.
Groups of galaxies are the smallest aggregates of galaxies. They typically contain no more than 50 galaxies in a diameter of 1 to 2 megaparsecs (Mpc).[NB 1] Their mass is approximately 1013 solar masses. The spread of velocities for the individual galaxies is about 150 km/s. However, this definition should be used as a guide only, as larger and more massive galaxy systems are sometimes classified as galaxy groups.
Groups are the most common structures of galaxies in the universe, comprising at least 50% of the galaxies in the local universe. Groups have a mass range between those of the very large elliptical galaxies and clusters of galaxies. In the local universe, about half of the groups exhibit diffuse X-ray emissions from their intracluster media. Those that emit X-rays appear to have early-type galaxies as members. The diffuse X-ray emissions come from zones within the inner 10-50% of the groups' virial radius, generally 50-500 kpc.
There are several subtypes of groups.
Compact groups are small groups in closely grouped in a small area. They typically have around 5 galaxies in close proximity relatively isolated from other galaxies and formations. The first discovered, Stephan's Quintet, was discovered in 1877. Though Stephan's Quintet itself is a group of 4 and an unassociated foreground galaxy. Astronomer Paul Hickson created a catalogue of such groups in 1982, the Hickson Compact Groups.
Compact groups of galaxies readily show the effect of dark matter, as the visible mass is greatly less than that needed to dynamically bind the galaxies into a bound group. Compact galaxy groups are also not dynamically stable over Hubble time, thus showing that galaxies evolve by merger, over the timescale of the age of the universe.
Fossil groups are the remains of older groups of galaxies, where the luminous galaxies have merged to form an elliptical galaxy. Such systems still have an X-ray halo the size of the progenitor group, and can so be X-ray selected. Fossil groups may still contain unmerged dwarf galaxies, but the more massive members of the group have condensed into the central galaxy.
Proto-groups are groups that are in the process of formation. They are the smaller form of protoclusters. These contain galaxies and protogalaxies embedded in dark matter haloes that are in the process of fusing into group-formations of singular dark matter halos.
- see 1022 m for distance comparisons
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