Hubble accidentally discovers ancient dwarf galaxy

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An worldwide team of astronomers was using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument to study white dwarfs - superdense stellar corpses - in the globular cluster NGC 6752, which is part of the Milky Way.

In the outer fringes of the area observed with Hubble's camera, a compact collection of stars was visible. After a careful analysis of their brightness and temperatures, the scientists came to a conclusion that these stars aren't a part of the cluster the Milky Way belongs to-but rather they are millions of light-years more distant.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a small and strangely isolated dwarf galaxy just 30 million light-years away from our own Milky Way.

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The team called the elongated and small galaxy Bedin 1, which measures nearly 3,000 light years, only a fraction of the size of our galaxy.

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

"In a celestial game of 'Where's Waldo?' Hubble's sharp vision uncovered a never-before-seen dwarf galaxy located far behind the cluster's crowded stellar population", NASA said on Thursday. 36 galaxies of this type are already known to exist in the Local Group of Galaxies, 22 of which are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way.

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The researchers that discovered Bedin-1 were really lucky to have stumbled on it by accident, because it's so small and faint it would probably never have been discovered on goal with current instruments.

The team published their discovery January 31, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

The galaxy, dubbed Bedin 1 by its discoverer, is distinct in its isolation.

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The Hubble Team said: "While dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon, Bedin 1 has some notable features". Its stars are also old, like really old, revealing that the galaxy is as ancient as the universe itself - approximately 13 billion years old. However, not all galaxies fit into this stereotype - some are a little more understated, hidden or just plain shy, which explains why the Hubble Space Telescope found an entire galaxy hanging out on our cosmic doorstep, a mere 30 million light-years away. As telescopes on the ground and in space become more sophisticated, it seems highly likely that it's only a matter of time before more nearby cosmic fossils are dug up.