Scientists hope the discovery will shed light on how galaxies are born. Amateur astronomer Giuseppe Donatello discovered the orb while experimenting in a public data set published by DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys – a catalog of sky images visible from the Northern Hemisphere. The images have since been analyzed by Dr. David Martinez Delgado of the Astronomical Institute of Andalusia in Granada, Spain.
By comparing the discovery to deeper images taken by the 3.58-meter-high telescope Nazionale Galileo in Italy, the astrophysicist was able to determine the exact location of the galaxy.
Quite surprisingly, Pisces VII/Tree III has been identified as one of two potential candidates, and according to the University of Surrey, either of them would “make it an important astrophysical discovery”.
Based on the team’s calculations, the galaxy is either an isolated dwarf galaxy or a satellite of the giant Triangle galaxy.
Also known as Messier 33 (M33) or NGC 598, the spiral galaxy is the third largest member of the Local Group of galaxies, behind the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way.
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“M33 is currently challenging the assumptions of astrophysicists, but this new discovery begins to reassure us that our theories are correct.”
Before astrophysicists can confirm the nature of Whale VII/Triple III, they will need to accurately measure its distance and know how it is moving relative to M33.
Either way, they will need to use an additional telescope imaging.
Noshin Karim, another doctoral student at the University of Surrey who helped identify Pisces VII/Triple III, said: “Hubble’s deep imaging will allow us to reach faint stars that act as powerful distance estimators, having record brightness.
“To confirm the movement of the new galaxy, we need imaging from an eight-meter or 10-meter telescope, such as Keck or Gemini.”
The discovery of the galaxy is described in a research paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The study authors wrote: “The discovery of more satellites in the outskirts of M33 could help clarify whether this discrepancy between projections and observations is due to a misunderstanding of the formation process of galaxies, or if it is due to the reduced illumination and surface brightness of the M33 satellite that has decreased. So far below the detection limits of previous surveys.
“If it is truly isolated, it will be the weakest known field dwarf discovered to date.”
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