A galaxy (from the Greek root galakt-, meaning "milk", a reference to our own Milky Way) is a massive, gravitationally bound system consisting of stars, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and dark matter.

Typical galaxies range from dwarfs with as few as ten million stars up to giants with one trillion stars, all orbiting a common center of mass. Galaxies can also contain many multiple star systems, star clusters, and various interstellar clouds. Historically, galaxies have been categorized according to their apparent shape (usually referred to as their visual morphology).

A common form is the elliptical galaxy, which has an ellipse-shaped light profile. Spiral galaxies are disk-shaped assemblages with curving, dusty arms. Galaxies with irregular or unusual shapes are known as peculiar galaxies, and typically result from disruption by the gravitational pull of neighbouring galaxies. Such interactions between nearby galaxies, which may ultimately result in galaxies merging, may induce episodes of significantly increased star formation, producing what is called a starburst galaxy. Small galaxies that lack a coherent structure could also be referred to as irregular galaxies.
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