A galaxy caught in the act of dying
Tuesday, June 4, 2013, 1:47 - Researchers hope that witnessing the event will give them valuable information about the origin of the poorly understood dwarf elliptical galaxy.
A team of astronomers could be studying the first clear example of a galaxy in the act of dying.
The dwarf galaxy is 54 million light years away--which is still relatively close as far as distances in space go. Experts think they are witnessing the transformation of a gas-rich dwarf irregular galaxy into a gas-poor dwarf elliptical galaxy.
They are hoping that the event will give a better understanding of the origin of the latter, which is a subspecies of one the most common types of galaxy in the universe.
Star formation is one of the main characteristics that help determine the vitality of a galaxy. Many of the universe's known galaxy are actively producing stars but a few galaxies are rendered "lifeless" as they no longer can produce stars due to gas depletion. The galaxy, known as IC3418 and located inside the Virgo cluster, is now all but totally out of gas. Stars, planets and life can form only if the galaxy is able to provide gas.
It is believed that the core of IC3418 stopped making stars between 200 and 300 million years ago. However towards the tail there is evidence of more recent star formation, within the last few million years or so.