Hubble Space Telescope Spots Solitary Dwarf Galaxy
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted an irregular dwarf galaxy. This type of galaxy does not have the distinct regular shape of elliptical and spiral galaxies. It is also slightly smaller and more chaotic in appearance when compared with other galaxies.
Dubbed UGC 4879, the galaxy is also very isolated being located about 2.3 million light-years away from its closest neighbor, Leo A.
The isolation of UGC 4879 means that it has not interacted with other galaxies, which makes it an ideal laboratory for astronomers to study how stars form without the complications of interactions with other galaxies.
"UGC 4879 is an irregular dwarf galaxy — as the name suggests, galaxies of this type are a little smaller and messier than their cosmic cousins, lacking the majestic swirl of a spiral or the coherence of an elliptical," ESA described UGC 4879.
Studies of this galaxy have shown that a significant amount of star formation has occurred within the first 4 billion years after the Big Bang, which was followed by a bizarre 9-billion-year pause in star formation that ended 1 billion years ago, a behavior that still baffles scientists.
The galaxy, though, is anticipated to provide astronomers with ample materials so they can better understand the mysteries behind the birth of stars across the universe.
The Hubble Space Telescope, a project of the NASA and the European Space Agency, was launched into orbit in 1990. Although it is not the first space telescope, the Hubble is among the largest and most versatile that astronomers use for research.
Using the Hubble, researchers were able to make significant discoveries about the universe. Earlier this month, a group of researchers examined supernovas and stars using the space telescope so they can measure the distance between objects in the universe. Their findings revealed that the universe grows between 5 to 9 percent faster than scientists initially estimated.
While Hubble has undeniably served as a significant tool for research in the field of astronomy over the past 26 years, a more powerful space telescope is set to be launched soon.
The James Webb Telescope, a joint project of the NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and ESA, is expected to be launched in 2018 from French Guiana aboard an Ariane 5 rocket.
In a statement, NASA said that the Webb will study the formation of solar systems that can support life on planets that are similar to ours and the evolution of our own galaxy, among others.