Zooming in on NGC 6752 and Bedin 1

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Galaxies: Big, bright and really hard to miss.

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a dwarf galaxy in our own cosmic backyard, a mere 30 million light-years from the Milky Way.

From the properties of its stars, astronomers were able to infer that the galaxy is around 13 billion years old - almost as old as the Universe itself. 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. An worldwide team of astronomers was using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument to study white dwarfs - superdense stellar corpses - in the globular cluster NGC 6752, which is part of the Milky Way. 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. The finding is reported in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

So, what do we know about our new galactic neighbor? For starters, it's small.

Dwarf spheroidal galaxies are defined by their small size, low-luminosity, lack of dust and old stellar populations [1].

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.

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"Our newly discovered cosmic neighbour, nicknamed Bedin 1 by the astronomers, is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy", explains the official Hubble website. These faint stars were being studied so that scientists could better gauge how old the cluster was as a whole, but that's when they noticed what appeared to be a galaxy that had yet to be documented.

While dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon, Bedin 1 has some notable features. For starters, it's a loner. The upper left one highlights the part containing the galaxy Bedin 1.

Further observations led the astronomers to deduce that the galaxy is roughly 13 billion years old, making it roughly as old as the Milky Way.

Accidentally stumbling across a nearby galaxy gives astronomers a hint that there may be many more galaxies of this type out there, just waiting to be found behind the nearest star cluster.

And then there's Bedin 1's age.

The Hubble Space Telescope, a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency, launched to Earth orbit in April 1990 aboard the space shuttle Discovery.

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