Scientists ask 'What is a galaxy?'

A problem has emerged among the scientific community, with a group of researcher asking the question ‘what is a galaxy?’

It may sound like a straight forward question, as surely even your average 7 year old would be able to give you a rough approximation of how a galaxy is a group of stars that exist independently in space, roughly the same as what the Oxford English Dictionary will tell you.

Of course when the question was asked here at Techeye HQ the most intelligible response was “Isn’t that what happens when God forgets to do the spring cleaning?”, so we are certainly not in any position to get on our high horses on this one.

But apparently the question is rather more difficult than one might expect, and in order to work out what the true definition is, two scientists are using a novel approach to get to the bottom of it.

Unfortunately the manner in which have decided to go about this is to ask the heaving mass of buffoons and gibbering fools that is the general public. Yes, that would be the same general public who, when last consulted on an important decision, voted Nick Clegg into office so we won’t expect this particular conundrum to be solved any time soon.

While we will have to just hope for an intelligent answer, the fate of all galaxies across the universe is now being decided in a questionnaire in which anyone can vote to decide what they perceive to be the truest definition of what a galaxy actually is.

It is a problem being pondered by Duncan Forbes at Swinburne University in Australia and Pavel Kroup at the University of Bonn in Germany, according to MIT’s Technology Review who have outlined in a research paper the various characteristics that astronomers think about when they are classifying galaxies.

The question has become more pertinent of late due to the discovery of a growing number of small galaxy-like objects that were until recently unknown, and have been given names such as ultra-compact dwarfs and ultra-faint dwarf spheroidal galaxies.

Scientists are unsure whether these are galaxies of globular clusters, which are not considered galaxies, and are keen to miss out on the debacle that was the rebranding of Pluto as a non-planet – which irked both astronomers and members of the public back in 2006.

The scientists gathered together a number of definitions which were generally accepted by most in the scientific community such the presence of stars, so that gas clouds would not be considered; being gravitationally bound so materials that has been stripped away by another galaxy wouldn’t count; whether the system is stable or not; and whether it is held by dark matter, which it is thought many galaxies are.

So have a look at the paper and take part in the survey, as the fate of the galaxies across the universe rests in your hands.