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‘Bizarre’ ghost galaxy discovery stuns scientists

A Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy NGC1052-DF2. (Image: NASA; ESA; P. van Dokkum)

Scientists are baffled by the discovery of a so-called ‘ghost galaxy’ which seems to contain almost no dark matter, once regarded as a major building block for galaxies.

A team of astronomers from the University of Toronto, Yale University, San Jose State University, University of California Observatories, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the Max Planck Institute in Germany made the discovery. The unique galaxy about 65 million light-years away.

A light-year, which measures distance in space is equal to 6 trillion miles.

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Galaxy NGC1052-DF2 or DF2, and is about the size of our own milky way Galaxy, but has only 1/200th of the star, according to the experts. The Milky way has hundreds of billions of stars, according to NASA, and enough gas and dust to make billions of stars. Our milky way galaxy has at least 10 times as much dark matter as all the stars and gas together.

DF2 was first spotted with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a powerful telescope built by experts from the University of Toronto and the University of Yale. Later observations were made using the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii and NASA’s Hubble space telescope.

The absence of dark matter in DF2 surprised scientists, who published their findings in the journal Nature Communications on Thursday. NASA notes that dark matter, an invisible substance, the “underlying scaffolding” upon which galaxies are built. “It is the glue that holds the visible matter in galaxies, stars and gas together,” explained, in a statement on the discovery.

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Experts have described DF2 as “ghostly” as a result of the absence of dark matter and little stars. This means that distant galaxies are visible by DF2.

“We thought that all galaxies are made of stars, gas and dark matter are mixed together, but with dark matter always dominate”, said Prof. dr. Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto and co-author of the paper, in a statement. “Now it seems that at least some galaxies exist with a host of stars and gas, and hardly any dark matter. It’s pretty bizarre.”

“This invisible, mysterious substance is the most dominant aspect of a samsung galaxy mini,” added Pieter van Dokkum, Yale Sol Goldman Family Professor of Astronomy, and lead author of the paper, in a statement. “So finding a galaxy without the unexpected. It challenges the standard ideas of how we think galaxies work, and it shows that the dark matter really is. It has its own existence, apart from the other parts of galaxies. This result also suggests that there is more than one way to make a galaxy.”

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Now, astronomers have hunt other galaxies with similar characteristics. “We are currently working with a research in order to find more objects to DF2,” said Abraham. “The Dragonfly is good at finding these types of objects. Maybe we are just the tip of the iceberg.”

In a separate research, scientists recently announced the discovery of 15 new planets, including a “super-Earth” that could have liquid water on its surface. Earlier this year, astronomers also confirmed that planets outside the Milky way had been spotted for the first time.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

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