The numerous faint stars that comprise the Antlia Dwarf galaxy – first discovered in 1997 – are more than four million light-years from Earth.
Yet, this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image offers such stunning clarity that they could be mistaken for much closer stars in our own Milky Way galaxy.
Although small, the Antlia Dwarf is a dynamic site featuring stars at many different stages of evolution, from young to old. The newest stars are only found in the central regions where there is significant ongoing star formation. Older stars and globular clusters are located in the outer areas.
Interestingly enough, it is not entirely clear whether the Antlia Dwarf is a member our galactic neighborhood, which astronomers refer to as the Local Group. To be sure, it probably lies just beyond the normally accepted outer limits of the group.
Although Antlia Dwarf is fairly isolated, some scientists believe it has interacted with other star groups. This theory is based on observations of galaxy NGC 3109, close to the Antlia Dwarf (but not visible in this image).
Indeed, both galaxies feature rifts of stars moving at comparable velocities – a telltale sign that they were gravitationally linked at some point in the past.