Hubble Accidentally Discovers An Ancient, Nearby Dwarf Galaxy

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While analyzing stars in cluster NGC 6752, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope encountered a tiny and faint spherical dwarf galaxy 30 million light-years away which they have nicknamed Bedin 1.

While searching the globular cluster NGC 6752, an global team of scientists discovered a compact collection of stars millions of light years away. 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.

Dubbed Bedin 1 by the astronomers who discovered it, the dwarf galaxy has been described as modestly sized and elongated. These properties led astronomers to classify it as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy.

Dwarf spheroidal galaxies all have small sizes, low-luminosities and lack dust and old stars.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered thousands of galaxies throughout its lifetime, but many of those galaxies are billions of light-years away, in the most distant parts of our visible universe. This cluster lies around 13,000 light-years away, and scientists were studying the stars with Hubble to find out how old they are, and in turn, the age of the entire cluster. And that's what makes Bedin 1 so interesting for astronomers. Their aim was to measure the age of the cluster by using these stars, but they unexpectedly found a dwarf galaxy in our cosmic backyard.

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

Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon: There are at least 36 in our Local Group of galaxies. Bedin 1 is very isolated and is also one of the very few of its type that have a well-established distance.

Astronomers have discovered a galaxy thought to be around 13 billion years old - almost as old as the universe itself. First, most dwarf galaxies are found huddled up closer to a larger galaxy.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990, where it has remained in the decades since.

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