Astronomy and Astrophysics Review 1994, 6, 67-122


Henry C. Ferguson 1

Space Telescope Science Institute 2
3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218 USA

Bruno Binggeli

Astronomisches Institut der Universität Basel
Venusstrasse 7, CH-4102 Binningen, Switzerland

ABSTRACT. Dwarf elliptical (dE) galaxies, with blue absolute magnitudes typically fainter than MB = -16, are the most numerous type of galaxy in the nearby universe. Tremendous advances have been made over the past several years in delineating the properties of both Local Group satellite dE's and the large dE populations of nearby clusters. We review some of these advances, with particular attention to how well currently available data can constrain

  1. models for the formation of dE's,
  2. the physical and evolutionary connections between different types of galaxies (nucleated and nonnucleated dE's, compact E's, irregulars, and blue compact dwarfs) that overlap in the same portion of the mass-spectrum of galaxies,
  3. the contribution of dE's to the galaxy luminosity functions in clusters and the field,
  4. the star-forming histories of dE's and their possible contribution to faint galaxy counts, and
  5. the clustering properties of dE's.

In addressing these issues, we highlight the extent to which selection effects temper these constraints, and outline areas where new data would be particularly valuable.

Key words: Galaxies: general - Galaxies: luminosity function, mass function - Galaxies: evolution - Galaxies: structure - Galaxies: stellar content - Galaxies: fundamental parameters

Table of Contents

1 Hubble Fellow
2 Operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.