Astronomers discovered a mysteriously pale object that puzzled them. According to reports, this “almost invisible” dwarf galaxy exhibits characteristics that are the opposite of the typical pattern shown by galaxies.
Mireia Montes, lead author of the ‘almost invisible’ dwarf galaxy study, shared this image on X. (X/@mireiamontesq)
The galaxy has been named Nube, according to a study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. It was discovered by an international research team from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in collaboration with the University of La Laguna (ULL) and other institutions.
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How did the galaxy get its name?
One of the researchers in the study group asked his 5-year-old daughter what a picture of a dwarf galaxy reminded her of. To which she immediately said Nube, the word for clouds in Spanish.
What makes Nube different?
According to the study, “Its surface brightness is so faint that it has gone unnoticed in various previous surveys of this part of the sky as if it were some kind of ghost. This is because its stars are so spread out in such a large volume that the ‘Nube’ (Spanish for “Cloud”) was almost impossible to detect.
Why has the dwarf galaxy puzzled astronomers?
The newly discovered galaxy has specific properties that set it apart from other galactic objects. According to the study, it is “ten times fainter than others of its type, but also ten times more extended than other objects with a comparable number of stars”.
“With our current knowledge, we do not understand how a galaxy with such extreme characteristics can exist,” explained astrophysicist Mireia Montes, lead author of the study.
How far is Nuba?
Due to its faintness, it is difficult to determine how far away this galaxy is. Using observations from the Green Bank Telescope (GBT), the researchers estimated that it is 300 million light-years away. However, only further research will show whether this distance is correct.
Speaking about the galaxy’s distance, the study’s second author, Ignacio Trujillo, said: “If the galaxy turns out to be closer, it will still be a very strange object and pose a great challenge to astrophysics.”
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