galactic bulge Thick distribution of warm gas and stars around the galactic center.
galactic cannibalism A galaxy merger in which a larger galaxy consumes a smaller one.
galactic center The center of the Milky Way, or any other, galaxy. The point about which the disk of a spiral galaxy rotates.
galactic disk Flattened region of gas and dust that bisects the galactic halo in a spiral galaxy. This is the region of active star formation.
galactic halo Region of a galaxy extending far above and below the galactic disk, where globular clusters and other old stars reside.
galactic nucleus Small central high-density region of a galaxy. Nearly all of the radiation from an active galaxy is emitted from the nucleus.
galaxy Gravitationally bound collection of a large number of stars. The Sun is a star in the Milky Way Galaxy.
galaxy cluster A collection of galaxies held together by their mutual gravitational attraction.
Galilean satellites The four brightest and largest moons of Jupiter (Io, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto), named after Galileo Galilei, the 17th century astronomer who first observed them.
gamma ray Region of the electromagnetic spectrum, far beyond the visible spectrum, corresponding to radiation of very high frequency and very short wavelength.
gamma-ray burst Object that radiates tremendous amounts of energy in the form of gamma rays, possibly due to the collision and merger of two neutron stars initially in orbit around one another.
general theory of relativity Einstein's theory of gravity, in which the force of gravity is reinterpreted as a curvature of spacetime in the vicinity of a massive object.
geocentric model A model of the solar system which holds that the Earth is at the center of the universe and all other bodies are in orbit around it. The earliest theories of the solar system were geocentric.
giant A star with a radius between 10 and 100 times that of the Sun.
globular cluster Tightly bound, roughly spherical collection of hundreds of thousands, and sometimes millions, of stars, spanning about 50 parsecs. Globular clusters are distributed in the halos around the Milky Way and other galaxies.
Grand Unified Theories Class of theories describing the behavior of the single force that results from unification of the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces in the early universe.
granulation Mottled appearance of the solar surface, caused by rising (hot) and falling (cool) material in convective cells just below the photosphere.
gravitational field Field created by any object with mass, extending outward in all directions, which determines the influence of that object on all others. The strength of the gravitational field decreases as the square of the distance.
gravitational lensing The effect induced on the image of a distant object by a massive foreground object. Light from the distant object is bent into two or more separate images.
gravitational red shift A prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Photons lose energy as they escape the gravitational field of a massive object. Because a photon's energy is proportional to its frequency, a photon that loses energy suffers a decrease in frequency, which corresponds to an increase, or redshift, in wavelength.
gravity The attractive effect that any massive object has on all other massive objects. The greater the mass of the object, the stronger its gravitational pull.
Great Dark Spot Prominent storm system in the atmosphere of Neptune, located near the equator of the planet. The system is comparable in size to the Earth.
Great Red Spot A large, high-pressure, long-lived storm system visible in the atmosphere of Jupiter. The Red Spot is roughly twice the size of the Earth.
greenhouse effect The partial trapping of solar radiation by a planetary atmosphere, similar to the trapping of heat in a greenhouse.
ground state The lowest energy state that an electron can have within an atom.