A recently discovered dwarf galaxy is being described as a late bloomer by astronomers because similar galaxies are typically formed during the early eras of the Universe.
Instead, this dwarf galaxy is roughly 20 million light years away from Earth — a relatively recent period for the history of the Universe. It was officially named HIPASS J1131–31, but astronomers have nicknamed it “Peekaboo” because it was found behind the glare of a star.
“Uncovering the Peekaboo Galaxy is like discovering a direct window into the past, allowing us to study its extreme environment and stars at a level of detail that is inaccessible in the distant, early Universe,” said Gagandeep Anand, an astronomer at the Space Telescope Science Institute and a co-author of a study on Peekaboo’s properties.
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has helped astronomers confirm some of the galaxy’s unique properties, which is only 1,200 light-years wide. It is considered extremely metal-poor, or XMP. This is because there are few elements heavier than hydrogen and helium produced and enriched by stars over time. Primordial hydrogen and helium were forged in the Big Bang, while the stars forged heavier elements.
The stars it includes are no older than a few billion years old, indicating the galaxy is one of the youngest in the local universe. Other nearby galaxies have stars that are billions of years older.
Other XMP galaxies similar to Peekaboo were found within the local universe, but it is the closest one to Earth. This makes future observations easy for astronomers, and provides a glimpse into how the early Universe was formed.