Hubble fortuitously discovers a new galaxy in the cosmic neighborhood

Hubble fortuitously discovers a new galaxy in the cosmic neighborhood

NASA's Hubble Telescope was focusing on the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (which is located a mere 13,000 light-years away) when it captured the surprise find. They analyzed the brightness and temperatures of the stars and later found that they did not belong to the globular cluster, which is part of the Milky Way.

The newly found galaxy is nicknamed Bedin 1 by the astronomers, is an average sized, elongated galaxy.

Aging space telescope Hubble has stumbled upon a previously unknown galaxy dubbed Bedin 1, a celestial destination within the Milky Way that NASA describes as akin to a 'living fossil.' The relatively minuscule, very dim Bedin 1 galaxy is 13-billion-years-old and spheroidal in shape with a width around 1/30th that of the Milky Way.

Nestled behind the cluster's crowded star population, a dwarf galaxy was spotted for the first time, NASA said. Wonderful footage from NASA shows the camera zooming in on the "tiny" galaxy, dubbed "Bedin 1", surrounded by thousands of dazzling stars. There's a chance this small swirl of stars may be connected to a larger nearby galaxy, but the two are far apart and it's not clear they have ever interacted.

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This "loner galaxy" is about 30 million light years away, or 2,300 times farther away than the clusters in the foreground of the image. This makes it possibly the most isolated small dwarf galaxy discovered to date. However, its remote location and the fact that it's not near any other galaxies has led researchers to label it "a living fossil from the early Universe".

The astronomers also note that a survey planned for the upcoming Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST, planned to launch in the mid-2020's) may find more of these small, hermit-like galaxies.

[1] While similar to dwarf elliptical galaxies in appearance and properties, dwarf spheroidal galaxies are in general approximately spherical in shape and have a lower luminosity.

Today, September 9, 2009, NASA released the first images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope since its fix in the spring. There's no telling just how many other tiny galaxies are hiding behind star clusters just waiting to be found.

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