Astronomical objects or celestial objects are naturally occurring physical entities, associations or structures that current science has demonstrated to exist in the observable universe. The term astronomical object is sometimes used interchangeably with astronomical body. Typically, an astronomical (celestial) body refers to a single, cohesive structure that is bound together by gravity (and sometimes by electromagnetism). Examples include the asteroids, moons, planets and the stars. Astronomical objects are gravitationally bound structures that are associated with a position in space, but may consist of multiple independent astronomical bodies or objects. These objects range from single planets to star clusters, nebulae or entire galaxies. A comet may be described as a body, in reference to the frozen nucleus of ice and dust, or as an object, when describing the nucleus with its diffuse coma and tail.
The universe can be viewed as having a hierarchical structure. At the largest scales, the fundamental component of assembly is the galaxy, which are assembled out of dwarf galaxies. The galaxies are organized into groups and clusters, often within larger superclusters, that are strung along great filaments between nearly empty voids, forming a web that spans the observable universe. Galaxies and dwarf galaxies have a variety of morphologies, with the shapes determined by their formation and evolutionary histories, including interaction with other galaxies. Depending on the category, a galaxy may have one or more distinct features, such as spiral arms, a halo and a nucleus. At the core, most galaxies have a supermassive black hole, which may result in an active galactic nucleus. Galaxies can also have satellites in the form of dwarf galaxies and globular clusters.
A barred spiral galaxy is a spiral galaxy with a central bar-shaped structure composed of stars. Bars are found in approximately two-thirds of all spiral galaxies. Bars generally affect both the motions of stars and interstellar gas within spiral galaxies and can affect spiral arms as well.
Edwin Hubble classified spiral galaxies of this type as "SB" (spiral, barred) in his Hubble sequence, and arranged them into three sub-categories based on how open the arms of the spiral are. SBa types feature tightly bound arms, while SBc types are at the other extreme and have loosely bound arms. SBb-type galaxies lie in between. A fourth type, SBm, was subsequently created to describe somewhat irregular barred spirals, such as the Magellanic Cloud galaxies, which were once classified as irregular galaxies, but have since been found to contain barred spiral structures. Among other types in Hubble's classifications for the galaxies are: spiral galaxy, elliptical galaxy and irregular galaxy.
Observations by radio telescopes had for years already suggested the Milky Way is barred, and in 2005 infra-red observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope backed up previously collected evidence.