On April 29, 2016, NASA announced it discovered something incredible “hiding in the night sky.”
Hanging out just over 110 million light-years away is UGC 477 — the latest galaxy spotted by Hubble Space Telescope.
UGC 477 isn’t just any old galaxy. It could serve as an invaluable learning tool for NASA in the years ahead — especially when it comes to solving one of the great mysteries of our universe.
Here are four fascinating tidbits you should know about our new galactic (very distant) neighbor, UGC 477:
1. UGC 477 is in the constellation Pisces.
Are you one of those compassionate, gentle souls born between Feb. 19 and March 20? Well UGC 477 might have a special place in your Pisces heart, seeing as it calls the fish-inspired constellation home.
The constellation Pisces is big — the 14th largest constellation of the 88 in our sky — but it can be surprisingly easy to miss. The space objects that comprise Pisces generally aren’t all that bright, so UGC 477 actually fits in perfectly there.
2. It’s amazing we even spotted UGC 477 because galaxies like UGC 477 are very difficult to spot.
Because it’s a low surface brightness galaxy (LSB) — a concept first proposed by astrophysicist Mike Disney back in 1976 — UGC 477’s matter is diffused over a large area, unlike our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Because of its more diffused state, galaxies like UGC 477 have surface brightness up to 250 timesfainter than the night sky. This, of course, makes them “incredibly difficult to detect,” NASA notes.
3. You won’t find too many stars in UGC 477, relatively speaking.
Unlike many other galaxies, the centers of LSBs aren’t filled with stars. Instead, you’ll find lots of hydrogen gas.
LSB galaxies typically hang out far away from other galaxy clusters. Because of this, one theory suggests that the matter within these galaxies has had less galactic interactions with other spatial bodies, and those interactions are what cause high rates of star formation.
4. UGC 477 may be a great learning tool for NASA in the years ahead because it appears to hold a ton of mysterious dark matter.
UGC 477 appears “to be dominated by dark matter,” according to NASA. And that means it’s an excellent spatial object for study to get a better understanding of the somewhat spooky-sounding substance.
As NASA explained, we know much more about what dark matter is not than what it actually is. The elusive matter isn’t visible in the form of, say, stars or planets but makes up an estimated 27% of our universe. (Seriously, dark matter is super weird.)
UGC 477 is just the latest feather in Hubble’s huge cap.
The telescope has long been a reliable source for space nerds everywhere, bringing jaw-dropping imagery and game-changing data to our computer screens. But it seems like recently Hubble’s been especially killing it — from those mind-boggling images from our galactic neighbor Andromeda to uncovering the truth behind a massive star collision happening 230 million light-years away.
Now, we’ve spotted a hidden gem that may help us unlock some of the biggest mysteries our universe has in store.
Thanks, Hubble (we owe you one).