NASA's Hubble telescope finds a surprise neighbor galaxy hiding out

This image taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys, shows a part the globular cluster NGC 6752. Behind the bright stars of the cluster a denser collection of faint stars is visible- the previously unknown dwarf spheroidal galaxy Bedin 1

The find was fortuitous.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope to study the stars in the globular cluster NGC 6752 have made an unusual finding.

The Hubble images revealed an odd clump of stars. 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.

An worldwide team of astronomers recently used the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to study white dwarf stars within the globular cluster NGC 6752.

So with Bedin 1 found, it's one down, 1,999,999,999,999 to go. 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.

Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon: There are at least 36 in our Local Group of galaxies. But Bedin 1 is special in several ways, according to the discovery team.

The ancient galaxy is one of the oldest and most isolated galaxies known to man, and was named after Luigi Bedin, a researcher at Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics who discovered it.

And then there's Bedin 1's age.

Bedin 1 appears on the lower end of this Hubble image of globular cluster NGC 6752. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. Incredible footage from NASA shows the camera zooming in on the "tiny" galaxy, dubbed "Bedin 1", surrounded by thousands of dazzling stars.

It's estimated to be roughly 13 billion years old based on the properties of its stars, meaning it is nearly as old as the universe itself. The galaxy's isolation means it rarely interacted with other galaxies, making it the equivalent of an early universe "living fossil", the space agency explains.

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

The Hubble Space Telescope, run by USA space agency NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), has once again delivered an wonderful view at the cosmos. The scope's cosmic views were initially blurry - the result of a slight flaw in Hubble's primary mirror - but spacewalking astronauts fixed that problem in December 1993.



Other news