Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the irregular dwarf galaxy IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. This is not just a matter of appearances; the galaxy’s cleanliness is vital to our understanding of the universe around us.
Nearby dwarf galaxy Wolf—Lundmark—Melotte (WLM) poses an intriguing mystery: How is it able to form brilliant star clusters without the dusty, gas-rich environments found in larger galaxies? The answer, astronomers believe, lies in densely packed and previously unrecognised nuggets of star-forming material sprinkled throughout the galaxy.
A recent survey using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope has discovered hundreds of new galaxies in the Virgo Cluster, the nearest large cluster of galaxies. Most are extremely faint dwarf galaxies, objects hundreds of thousands of times less massive than our Milky Way, and amongst the faintest galaxies known in the universe.