NASA says Hubble accidentally discovered a tiny 'living fossil' galaxy

Aging space telescope Hubble has stumbled upon a previously unknown galaxy dubbed Bedin 1, a celestial destination within the Milky Way that NASA describes as akin to a 'living fossil.' The relatively minuscule, very dim Bedin 1 galaxy is 13-billion-years-old and spheroidal in shape with a width around 1/30th that of the Milky Way. NASA has shared a stunning image of the dwarf galaxy that was captured by Hubble.

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into orbit in 1990, where it has remained in the decades since. The telescope has been used to observe our solar system's planets, as well as distant galaxies and stars. During relatively recent work on imaging NGC 6752, a globular star cluster located around 13,000 light-years from the Milky Way's halo, Hubble made a surprise discovery: a previously unknown dwarf galaxy.

According to NASA, the Bedin 1 galaxy is both ancient and isolated, spanning approximately 3,000 light-years and clocking in around a thousand times dimmer than the Milky Way. 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.

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. Relative to other galaxies in the universe, NASA says that Bedin 1 is essentially in our planet's own "cosmic backyard."

This dwarf spheroidal galaxy is as old as the universe around it, and a study involving it was published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters online today. The team behind the research includes astronomers from the US, Canada, and Europe.