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Astronomers Discover New Dwarf Galaxy, Possible New Protogalaxy

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01/12/2013 10:41 PM
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Astronomers Discover New Dwarf Galaxy, Possible New Protogalaxy
Through detailed study of the constellation Ursa Major, astronomers have reportedly found two new clouds of hydrogen gas, one which is a faint dwarf galaxy, and the other which could be a proto dwarf galaxy that has not yet had a chance to form any stars.

The research team, led by Case Western Reserve University astronomy professor Chris Mihos, have dubbed the gas clouds – which are formally named G1425+5235 and G1355+5439 – Skipper and Gilligan, characters from the popular old television show Gilligan’s Island.

They were discovered in the M101 group of galaxies, and are fully reported in a pair of papers that have been published in the latest edition of the Astrophysical Journal.

Both galaxies are independent from M101 itself, the university confirmed in a statement Friday. In discovering Skipper and Gilligan, Mihos and his colleagues had to “discern starlight 100 times fainter than the black of the dark night sky and trace extremely low concentrations of interstellar gases among the celestial bodies.”

Following their discovery, both gas clouds were further analyzed using images provided by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in New Mexico. Faint patches of starlight were detected in Skipper, thus confirming that it is indeed a true dwarf galaxy that is populated by both gas and stars. However, no such starlight was found inside of Gilligan, leading Mihos to surmise it could be a proto dwarf galaxy.

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