The "living fossil" galaxy, dubbed the Bedin 1 by astronomers, is elongated, faint, and small by galactic standards, just 3,000 light-years across at its greatest extent (by comparison, the Milky Way is approximately 100,000 light-years across).
Though it might be hard to imagine, astronomers stumbled on this galaxy by accident.
NASA's Hubble Telescope was focusing on the globular star cluster NGC 6752 (which is located a mere 13,000 light-years away) when it captured the surprise find. And when they looked at the images Hubble sent back, they noticed a small galaxy hiding behind the cluster's brighter stars. Because regular galaxies like the Milky Way are hundreds or even thousands of times larger, these dwarf galaxies are at the gravitational mercy of their larger brethren. 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 team published their discovery January 31, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. 36 galaxies of this type are already known to exist in the Local Group of Galaxies, 22 of which are satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The astronomers have classified it as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy which is defined by their small size, low-luminosity, lack of dust and old stellar populations. The researchers suspect that Bedin-1 is the most isolated galaxy ever discovered. Granted, galaxies are anything but "small", but compared to our absolute unit of a galaxy, Bedin 1 is a featherweight.
The astronomers nicknamed the galaxy Bedin 1, and their study has been published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. It measures only 3000 light years - a fraction of the size of the milky way.
The discovery of Bedin 1 was a truly serendipitous find.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been peering into the unknown and infinite universe for almost 30 years. However, its remote location and the fact that it's not near any other galaxies has led researchers to label it "a living fossil from the early Universe".