Fr.: barre galactique
An elongated bar-shaped structure composed of stars present in some spiral galaxies. About two-third of such galaxies contain bars that cross their centers. Bars, like → spiral arms, result from a → density wave in which stars take very elliptical orbits. They form when the → galactic disk dominates the → galactic bulge, → Ostriker-Peebles criterion. Bars play an extremely important role in a galaxy's evolution. The gravity from a bar is the mechanism that drives → interstellar gas from the outer parts of a → spiral galaxy inward toward the central regions, and into the galactic nucleus itself. This causes tremendous bursts of star formation. Therefore, a majority of massive stars are born in such starbursts in the nuclei of galaxies. Bars may also channel the material that falls into black holes within active galactic nuclei, releasing enormous power in radiation and particles from tiny regions at the centers of some galaxies. Bars disappear as galactic centers grow more massive (after some 2 to 8 Gyr).