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NGC 1277 Galaxy Discovered by NASA

NGC 1277 Galaxy Discovered by NASA

This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1277. (NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley [Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias])

By    |   Wednesday, 14 March 2018 01:54 PM

NGC 1277, considered a "relic galaxy" that has gone unchanged for the past 10 billion years, was discovered by Earth-bound astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, according to a statement from the space agency.

Details of NGC 1277 were published in Monday's edition of science journal Nature, where researchers said the galaxy once popped out new stars 1,000 times faster than seen in the Milky Way today, but now is out of the star-making business, NASA said.

"We find that the optical color distribution of the cluster system of NGC 1277 is unimodal and entirely red," the researchers wrote in their Nature abstract. "This finding is in strong contrast to other galaxies of similar and larger stellar mass, the cluster systems of which always exhibit (and are generally dominated by) blue clusters.

"We argue that the color distribution of the cluster system of NGC 1277 indicates that the galaxy has undergone little (if any) mass accretion after its initial collapse, and use simulations of possible merger histories to show that the stellar mass due to accretion is probably at most 10 percent of the total stellar mass of the galaxy," the abstract continued.

NASA wrote that astronomers using Hubble have witnesses such "red and dead" galaxies in the early universe, but one has never been conclusively found nearby. NASA said such early galaxies were so distant, they appeared to be just red dots in Hubble deep-sky images.

NGC 1277 offers a rare chance to see such a galaxy close up, according to NASA.

"We can explore such original galaxies in full detail and probe the conditions of the early universe," Ignacio Trujillo, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias at the University of La Laguna, Spain, said in a statement.

Relic galaxies have twice as many stars as our Milky Way, but physically they are as small as one quarter the size of our galaxy, NASA said. The space agency said that NGC 1277 is in a state of "arrested development."

NASA researchers estimate that one in 1,000 massive galaxies is expected to be a relic (or oddball) galaxy, like NGC 1277.

"I didn't believe the ancient galaxy hypothesis initially, but finally I was surprised because it's not that common to find what you predict in astronomy," Michael Beasley, also of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, told NASA. "Typically, the universe always comes up with more surprises that you can think about."

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An ancient galaxy known as NGC 1277 was spotted near our own, giving astronomers a closer look at the evolution of the universe.
ngc 1277, galaxy, nasa
Wednesday, 14 March 2018 01:54 PM
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