Hubble Views A Stubborn Dwarf Galaxy

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

July 12, 2016 – The fuzzy collection of stars seen in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image forms an intriguing dwarf galaxy named LEDA 677373, located about 14 million light-years away from us.

Dwarf galaxies are small, faint collections of stars and gas. Their diverse properties make them intriguing objects to astronomers, but their small size means that we can only explore those that lie closest to us, within the Local Group, such as LEDA 677373.

This particular dwarf galaxy contains a plentiful reservoir of gas from which it could form stars. However, it stubbornly refuses to do so. In a bid to find out why, Hubble imaged the galaxy’s individual stars at different wavelengths, a method that allows astronomers to figure out a star’s age. These observations showed that the galaxy has been around for at least six billion years — plenty of time to form more stars. So why has it not done so?

Rather than being stubborn, LEDA 677373 seems to have been the unfortunate victim of a cosmic crime. A nearby giant spiral galaxy, Messier 83, seems to be stealing gas from the dwarf galaxy, stopping new stars from being born.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency. NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the telescope. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, conducts Hubble science operations. STScI is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington, D.C.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems built and integrated the Hubble Space Telescope in Sunnyvale, California. Seven of Hubble’s science instruments were built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. in Boulder, Colorado and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument was designed by the University of Colorado Boulder.