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Beyond Earthly Skies

An Ancient Relic of the Universe’s First Galaxies

22 Oct 2014, 22:00 UTC
An Ancient Relic of the Universe’s First Galaxies
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Ultra-faint dwarf galaxies (UFDs) are the faintest galaxies known in the universe. These galaxies are smaller than 1,000 light years in radius and have very low metallicities. As a result, UFDs are believed to represent the first generation of galaxies in the universe. UFDs are the most dark matter dominated galaxies since nearly all their mass is admittedly in the form of dark matter. In fact, the total mass of all stars in a UFD is typically less than a million solar masses. For comparison, the Milky Way galaxy contains 200 to 400 billion stars. UFDs are also much smaller and fainter than classical dwarf spheroidal galaxies. So far, UFDs have only been discovered around the Milky Way galaxy and the neighbouring Andromeda galaxy.Using images acquired by the Hubble Space Telescope, Jang & Lee (2014) reported the discovery of a UFD in a region of space far from any massive galaxy in the Virgo Cluster. This newly discovered UFD is named Virgo UFD1. Observations indicate that Virgo UFD1 contains low metallicity red-giant-branch (RGB) stars but no asymptotic-giant-branch (AGB) stars. It means that Virgo UFD1 is very old, most likely older than 10 billion years, because AGB stars mark the final ...

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