Space metamorphoses: Astronomers captured the process of transformation of dwarf galaxies

With the help of the Gemini North telescope, astronomers could capture the destruction process of more than a hundred dwarf galaxies. In the future, they will turn into ultra-compact dwarf galaxies. 

The destruction process of a dwarf galaxy in the artist’s image. Source: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/M. Zamani

Ultra-compact dwarf galaxies were discovered only at the end of the XX century and immediately baffled astronomers. The fact is that with a very modest size, which is usually only a few hundred light-years, they can contain hundreds of millions of stars. 

In an attempt to explain the origin of such structures, researchers have developed the hypothesis that they are the remnants of ordinary dwarf galaxies that, for some reason, have lost their outer layers. However, it was impossible to verify it for a long time due to the fact that astronomers could not find a sufficient number of galaxies at the stage of such a transition.

Now this situation has changed. Using the Gemini North telescope, an international team of researchers conducted a search in the vicinity of the Virgo cluster. It is a large cluster located about 50 million light-years from Earth and unites several thousand galaxies. 

After studying the data collected by Gemini North, astronomers managed to find about a hundred dwarf galaxies that were in the process of losing their outer layers. Almost all of them are located next to massive galaxies, from which gravity gradually “pulls out” stars and gas. At the same time, in the centers of many of these collapsing galaxies, there are super-compact star clusters. According to the researchers, after they completely lose the outer layers, they will turn into ultra-compact galaxies.

Earlier we talked about how the Hubble telescope photographed the galaxy, known by the unofficial nickname “Spanish Dancer”.

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