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A galaxy is a huge gravitationally bound system of stars, interstellar gas and dust, plasma, and (possibly) unseen dark matter. Typical galaxies contain ten million to one trillion (107 to 1012) stars, all orbiting a common center of gravity. In addition to single stars and a tenuous interstellar medium, most galaxies contain a large number of multiple star systems and star clusters as well as various types of nebulae. Most galaxies are several thousand to several hundred thousand light years in diameter and are usually separated from one another by distances on the order of millions of light years.

Although theoretical dark matter appears to account for around 90% of the mass of most galaxies, the nature of these unseen components is not well understood. There is some evidence that supermassive black holes may exist at the center of many, if not all, galaxies.

Intergalactic space, the space between galaxies, is filled with a tenuous plasma with an average density less than one atom per cubic meter. There are probably more than a hundred billion (1011) galaxies in our observable universe.


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