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Lonely Galaxy 'Lost in Space'

Jun 11, 2015 12:04 PM EDT

The Universe may seem like a big, wide-open expanse, but the truth is that most galaxies are clumped together in groups or clusters, and a neighbor is never far away. However, using the Hubble Space Telescope, researchers have now imaged in greater detail than before one unique, but lonely galaxy that is "lost in space."

NGC 6503 is located, only some 18 million light-years away, at the edge of a strangely empty patch of space called the Local Void. This odd patch of space is thought to be about 150 million light-years across, and is mysteriously devoid of galaxies.

But one galaxy that calls the Local Void home is NGC 6503, which lies right on its edge. Its lonely existence even earned it the title "Lost-In-Space galaxy" in Stephen James O'Meara's 2007 book Hidden Treasures.

But this galaxy doesn't just offer poetic inspiration, researchers note in a press release; it's also the subject of ongoing research. The Hubble Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey (LEGUS) is tasked with exploring various nearby galaxies, including NGC 6503, to study their shape, internal structure, and the properties and behavior of their stars.

A previous image of NGC 6503 was released as a Hubble Picture of the Week back in 2010, taken by Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys. However, this new image, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), shows NGC 6503 in unprecedented detail and with a richer set of colors.

As seen in the image (above), right red patches of gas are scattered through swirling spiral arms, mixed in with bright blue regions that contain newly-forming stars. Dark brown dust lines snake across the galaxy's bright arms and center, giving it a speckled appearance.

Scientists had already known of NGC 6503's existence, but now these latest findings help them to understand it in more detail than ever before.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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