Zooming in on NGC 6752 and Bedin 1

Zooming in on NGC 6752 and Bedin 1

The researchers published their findings online today (Jan. 31) in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. NASA has shared a stunning image of the dwarf galaxy that was captured by Hubble. 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. Specifically, they were analysing white dwarf stars within NGC6752 to measure the age of the cluster, which is located approximately 17,000 light-years from the centre of the Milky Way.

Bedin 1 is located "only" about 30 million light-years away, which puts its 2300 times farther away than the cluster visible in the foreground of the image above.

The scientists that made this discovery are now calling the galaxy Bedin 1, after the lead discoverer, Luigi Bedin.

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). Dwarf spheroidals are galaxies that are in retirement; the star formation party is over, and the stars that they do have are old and dim.

Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are defined by their small size, low-luminosity, lack of dust and old stellar populations [1]. 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. WFIRST is a telescope specifically created to scan large chunks of the sky with the same resolution as Hubble, so there's a much better chance images from WFIRST could help us find even more sneaky galaxies once it's launched early next decade. But as this discovery also shows, they're rather hard to spot, mostly because they're so small and dim. The discovery of this isolated galaxy could "put constraints on models of how the galaxy we see today did form", said Bedin. "Because of its isolation - which resulted in hardly any interaction with other galaxies - and its age, Bedin 1 is the astronautical equivalent of a living fossil from the early Universe", Hubble's website explained.

This isn't the space telescope's first headline of the year, though. Future telescopes with a large field of view, such as the WFIRST telescope, will have cameras covering a much larger area of the sky and may find many more of these galactic neighbours.

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