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Nearly starless galaxies found in nearby cluster

New class of galaxy could lead to better understanding of dark matter

1:24pm, November 5, 2014
faint galaxy

BARELY THERE  A faint galaxy, seen in the center of a Hubble Space Telescope image, is about the same size as the Milky Way but has relatively few stars. 

Not all galaxies are filled with stars. Astronomers have discovered a horde of nearly starless galaxies each about the size of the Milky Way. How they formed is a mystery, and they imply that there are more ways for a galaxy to evolve than previously imagined.

Pieter van Dokkum, an astronomer at Yale University, and colleagues stumbled across 47 galaxies that stopped forming stars long ago. The stars in each galaxy that remain— about 0.1 percent of the number in the Milky Way — are spread throughout a sphere roughly the size of a typical spiral galaxy. A stargazer living in one of these galaxies might see only a few stars at night, says van Dokkum. “You need something unusual to create a galaxy like this.”

The galaxies live in the Coma cluster, a cache of over 1,000 galaxies about 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices. Each of the dark galaxies is just a smudge of light found in images that the researchers acquired with

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