Initially believing the Bedin 1 group of stars was part of a separate cluster belonging to the Milky Way, astronomers soon realised that it was in fact a separate galaxy millions more light years away than previously thought.
"Our newly discovered cosmic neighbour, nicknamed Bedin 1 by the astronomers, is a modestly sized, elongated galaxy", explains the official Hubble website.
"It measures only around 3,000 light-years at its greatest extent (barely 1/30th the diameter of the Milky Way)", NASA said. These properties led astronomers to classify it as a dwarf spheroidal galaxy.
Bedin 1 is a dwarf spheroidal galaxy which contains small, old stars that lack dust and are very faint. Fantastic footage from NASA shows the camera zooming in on the "tiny" galaxy, dubbed "Bedin 1", surrounded by thousands of dazzling stars.
Reference: These results will be published online January 31, 2019, in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters [https://academic.oup.com/mnrasl]. Not only is it one of just a few dwarf spheroidals that have a well established distance but it is also extremely isolated.
"Most of these galaxies were relatively small and faint, with masses similar to those of the satellite galaxies surrounding the Milky Way", NASA said.
Bedin 1 is so old and so distant that it has hardly interacted with any other galaxies meaning it's essentially "the astronomical equivalent of a living fossil from the early Universe", according to the Hubble team.
The tiny galaxy is truly off on its own, and is roughly two million light years from the nearest large galaxy, so it's something of a time capsule that dates back billions and billions of years. That makes it a neighbor, in galactic terms. However, not all galaxies fit into this stereotype - some are a little more understated, hidden or just plain shy, which explains why the Hubble Space Telescope found an entire galaxy hanging out on our cosmic doorstep, a mere 30 million light-years away.
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been peering into the unknown and infinite universe for almost 30 years.