Locating a “fossil” in our Universe
The beautiful thing about the Universe is that it holds so many mysteries. Mankind is always exploring and learning more information about the Universe, which often leaves us with more questions than answers.
In late 2018, the Hubble Space Telescope made a monumental discovery: the location of a new galaxy beyond the reaches of the Milky Way. Despite the exciting discovery, scientists have much work to do to study this new galaxy and our understanding of the Universe’s beginning.
Hubble’s latest discovery
Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope helps scientists on Earth study distant stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. The Hubble Telescope sits in Earth’s low orbit, where scientists use it to study the mysteries of the Universe. Hubble is one of the largest and most versatile low-orbit telescopes.
Italian scientists were using Hubble to study stars in 2018. They were initially interested in an area called NGC 6752, which is a cluster of stars located inside our Milky Way galaxy. Scientists hoped to age the cluster by examining the properties of the stars.
However, once they began studying the stars, scientists noticed something suspicious. Behind the NGC 6752 cluster, there was an outer fringe of stars.
After analyzing the stars’ brightness and temperatures, scientists realized these stars didn’t belong to the cluster at all. In fact, these stars were located millions of light years away from the cluster itself.
Scientists followed the stars and realized that they’re part of a previously unknown dwarf galaxy, now named Bedin 1.
Bedin 1 is located 30 million light-years away from Earth. Classified as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy, Bedin 1 is a modest size and has an elongated shape. It’s largely comprised of red giant stars, which contain few metals.
Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are known for their small size, low luminosity, lack of dust, and old star populations. Scientists estimate Bedin 1 measures 3,000 by 1,000 light years, which is quite small when compared to our Milky Way.
Bedin 1 is one of 36 known dwarf galaxies. Of the dwarf galaxies we’ve identified, 22 of them are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way.
However, Bedin 1 is different from all other dwarf galaxies. The system is incredibly isolated. It’s located 2 million light-years away from NGC 6744, a spiral galaxy in the Pavo constellation. It’s 30 million light years away from our own galaxy.
Scientists also estimate that Bedin 1 is between 10 to 13 billion years old. That’s nearly as old as the Universe!
Bedin 1 is a scientific marvel because, in many ways, it’s a living fossil of the early Universe. Since Bedin 1 doesn’t interact with other bodies thanks to its isolation, its old age could hold many discoveries for scientists to uncover.
Bedin 1 is an exciting discovery for space exploration. Despite its small size, Bedin 1’s isolation and age make it a perfect specimen for us to learn more about the early Universe. In the future, scientists plan to study Bedin 1 with more advanced imaging technology, seeking answers to the Universe’s early days.