Hubble discovers dwarf galaxy in cosmic neighbourhood

Hubble discovers dwarf galaxy in cosmic neighbourhood

Using images from the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers studying distant, dim stars accidentally stumbled upon something they hadn't anticipated: An entirely undocumented galaxy sitting around 30 million light-years from Earth.

While searching the globular cluster NGC 6752, an global team of scientists discovered a compact collection of stars millions of light years away. Almost all the stars astronomers measured in Bedin 1 are small and old, implying the dwarf galaxy made all its stars in a single burst of activity some 10 billion years ago. Measuring only 3,000 light-years wide, Bedin 1 is a fraction of the size of the Milky Way (our galaxy is at least 100,000 light-years wide).

Astronomers estimate Bedin 1's age at about 13 billion years and say it's been isolated from interactions with other galaxies.

Nestled behind the cluster's crowded star population, a dwarf galaxy was spotted for the first time, NASA said. And all this activity can often mean complex histories of star formation, as old stars get ripped away and gas - the fuel of starbirth - gets pushed around, sparking new generations of stars. And that's what makes Bedin 1 so interesting for astronomers.

The team published their discovery January 31, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. Within the Local Group of Galaxies, there are about 36 of the dwarf spheroidal type, and among them, 22 are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The aim of their observations was to use these stars to measure the age of the globular cluster, but in the process they made an unexpected discovery.

Bedin 1 appears on the lower end of this Hubble image of globular cluster NGC 6752.

Astronomers have discovered a galaxy thought to be around 13 billion years old - almost as old as the universe itself.

The tiny galaxy is truly off on its own, and is roughly two million light years from the nearest large galaxy, so it's something of a time capsule that dates back billions and billions of years. NASA likens it to the "astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early universe".

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of global cooperation between ESA and NASA.

Related Articles