Washington: Astronomers including an Indian-origin using NASA`s Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory and telescopes on the ground may have found the densest nearby galaxy.
The ultra-compact dwarf galaxy, known as M60-UCD1, is packed with an extraordinary number of stars and may be the densest galaxy near Earth.
M60-UCD1, which is estimated to be about 10 billion years old, is near the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 4649, also called M60, about 54 million light-years from Earth.
It is the most luminous known galaxy of its type and one of the most massive, weighing 200 million times more than our Sun, based on observations with the W. M. Keck Observatory 10-meter telescope in Hawaii.
What makes M60-UCD1 so remarkable is that about half of this mass is found within a radius of only about 80 light-years. The density of stars is about 15,000 times greater - meaning the stars are about 25 times closer to each other - than in Earth`s neighbourhood in the Milky Way galaxy.
Lead author Jay Strader of Michigan State University in Lansing, said that travelling from one star to another would be a lot easier in M60-UCD1 than it is in our galaxy, but it would still take hundreds of years using present technology.
Co-author Anil Seth of the University of Utah said that the abundance of heavy elements in this galaxy makes it a fertile environment for planets and, potentially, for life to form.
The paper has been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.