Published: Sun, February 03, 2019
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Discovery of 'living fossil' galaxy could unlock secrets about early universe

Discovery of 'living fossil' galaxy could unlock secrets about early universe

While searching the globular cluster NGC 6752, an worldwide team of scientists discovered a compact collection of stars millions of light years away. The Hubble Space Telescope team initially planned to determine the age of a globular cluster by measuring its faintest stars, but ended up stumbling upon a small galaxy while doing so. Incredible footage from NASA shows the camera zooming in on the "tiny" galaxy, dubbed "Bedin 1", surrounded by thousands of dazzling stars.

Dwarf galaxies are common in the universe, but most ride the coattails of larger galaxies.

The astronomers nicknamed the galaxy Bedin 1, and their study has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. After a careful analysis of their brightnesses and temperatures, the astronomers concluded that these stars did not belong to the cluster - which is part of the Milky Way - but rather they are millions of light-years more distant.

You may have spotted the Triangulum Galaxy-also known as Messier 33 or NGC 598-on a particularly clear night: It's that faint, blurry object in the constellation of Triangulum (the Triangle).

Dubbed Bedin I in honor of its discoverer, the galaxy is comparatively small, faintly lit and amazingly ancient, reported Gizmodo. The human residents of the Milky Way galaxy are now saying hi to a neighboring galaxy we didn't even know existed. Not only is it one of just a few dwarf spheroidals that have a well established distance but it is also extremely isolated.

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. And remarkably, it's sitting right next door, cosmically speaking: At 30 million light-years away, it's considered part of our Local Group of galaxies. The researchers suspect that Bedin-1 is the most isolated galaxy ever discovered. A Hubble statement likens Bedin 1 to "the astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early Universe". That makes it a neighbor, in galactic terms.

[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.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency, launched to Earth orbit in April 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

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