Science

Living fossil from early universe: Hubble spots new galaxy near Milky Way

Living fossil from early universe: Hubble spots new galaxy near Milky Way”

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to study white dwarf stars stumbled upon a new cosmic neighbor. In contradistinction to the Milky Way, which is a kind of spiral star system, Bedin 1 is roughly spherical - what astronomers call a dwarf spheroidal star system.

An worldwide team of astronomers recently used the telescope to study white dwarf stars in the NGC 6752. They wanted to measure the age of the cluster but instead found a dwarf galaxy.

In the outer fringes of the observed area, a compact collection of stars was visible. And after carefully measuring the brightness and temperature of the background stars, they realized they had found something special - an entire galaxy that was hidden by the glare of NGC 6752.

Our newly discovered cosmic neighbour, nicknamed Bedin 1 by the astronomers, is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy.

Based on the properties of its stars, including their low-luminosity, astronomers were able to calculate that Bedin 1 is between 10 and 13 billion years old. The lunar sample was brought to Earth from the Moon by the Apollo 14 astronauts. (For comparison, the Milky Way's famous spiral disk has a diameter of about 100,000 light-years.) Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon; astronomers already knew of more than 20 that are satellites of the Milky Way.

Reference: These results will be published online January 31, 2019, in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters [https://academic.oup.com/mnrasl].

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). The upper left one highlights the part containing the galaxy Bedin 1. But Bedin 1 is special in several ways, according to the discovery team. It lies about 30 million light-years from the Milky Way and 2 million light-years from the nearest plausible large galaxy host, NGC 6744. Its stars are also old, like really old, revealing that the galaxy is as ancient as the universe itself - approximately 13 billion years old. NASA likens it to the "astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early universe".

The Hubble Space Telescope, run by United States space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), has once again delivered an incredible view at the cosmos.



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