Hubble just spotted a never-before-seen galaxy hiding in plain sight

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Galaxies: Big, bright and really hard to miss.

In the 1990s, the famous Hubble Deep Field image led NASA to believe there were about 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Astronomers have often noted evidence of smaller galaxies being pulled apart or consumed by larger ones.

European and American researchers made the astounding find while examining images of a globular cluster of stars known as NGC 6752.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered a dwarf galaxy in a globular cluster which is only 30 million light-years away.

After a careful analysis of their brightness and temperatures, the astronomers concluded that these stars did not belong to the cluster which is part of the Milky Way, but rather they are more distant. WFIRST is a telescope specifically created to scan large chunks of the sky with the same resolution as Hubble, so there's a much better chance images from WFIRST could help us find even more sneaky galaxies once it's launched early next decade. For starters, it's small.

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While dwarf spheroidal galaxies are not uncommon, Bedin 1 has some notable features. It measures only around 3000 light-years at its greatest extent - a fraction of the size of the Milky Way.

The researchers determined that this galaxy - nicknamed Bedin 1, after discovery team leader L. R. Bedin of the INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Italy - is a "spheroidal dwarf" just 3,000 light-years wide. In the Local Group of Galaxies, scientists have spotted 36 dwarf spheroidal galaxies, and 22 of them are satellite galaxies of our Milky Way. But Bedin 1 is special in several ways, according to the discovery team. For starters, it's a loner.

NASA says the dim galaxy is in our "cosmic backyard" at just 30 million light-years away.

"This makes it possible the most isolated small dwarf galaxy discovered to date". Its stars are also old, like really old, revealing that the galaxy is as ancient as the universe itself - approximately 13 billion years old. The galaxy's isolation means it rarely interacted with other galaxies, making it the equivalent of an early universe "living fossil", the space agency explains.