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What is the largest galaxy?

What is the largest galaxy, near or far, discovered to date? How large is it?

The largest galaxies that we know of are giant elliptical galaxies in the centres of clusters of galaxies. They are sometimes called cD galaxies (for giant diffuse galaxies) or BCGs (for brightest cluster galaxies). These galaxies are about 10 times more luminous that a typical galaxy (like the Milky Way) and about 100 times more massive. They can have diameters of more than 6 million light years (compare to about 100 thousand light years for the Milky Way). A good example is the central galaxy in the cluster Abell 2029.

cD galaxies are thought to grow by accreting any galaxy that comes anywhere near them, and in the centre of a cluster this can be a lot of galaxies over the age of the universe - so their mass can grow by a large factor. They usually have an area around them in which no smaller galaxies are found (as they've all been 'eaten') and a diffuse halo of gas and dust which is thought to be the debris of the smaller galaxies.

November 2002, Karen Masters (more by Karen Masters) (Like this Answer)

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