What is the Smallest Galaxy in the Universe?
Have you ever wondered what the smallest galaxy in the universe is? As far as we know today, that distinction goes to a galaxy called Willman 1.
Willman 1 was discovered in 2004 by Beth Willman of New York University’s Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics. This tiny galaxy lies about 120,000 light years away from our own Milky Way Galaxy and is thought to have a mass of only about 500,000 solar masses.
This small galaxy was discovered as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It was found in the constellation Ursa Major and is extremely faint. In fact, it has been called ultra faint and you would never be able to see it with the naked eye! Special image processing had to be used in order to visualize it. It holds the distinction as being the third dimmest galaxy known.
This object has been categorized as an extreme globular cluster or ultra low-mass dwarf galaxy. It is thought to be part of the halo of stars that surround our Milky Way and the colors of the stars are similiar to those stars that are in the Sagittarius tidal stream – which is a group of stars that were most likely part of a dwarf companion galaxy that has since merged with the Milky Way.
The technology used to discover this type of galaxy is still relatively new and I would guess that we will continue to learn more about how galaxies form.
SOURCE: Beth Willman, New York University, The Sloan Digital Sky Survey