21-Year-Old Discovers Galaxy that Swallowed Another Galaxy
San Jose State undergraduate Michael Sandoval recently discovered a stellar object that astronomers don't have a name for yet. They hypothesize that this system of stars, which they dubbed a "hypercompact cluster," is actually the remains of a galaxy that was consumed by another galaxy. The result is possibly the densest system of stars ever found.
Sandoval made this discovery during his first astronomy class. His professor, Aaron Romanowsky, was amazed that he found a structure that "some people take years and never find" in approximately a week.
Sandoval and his classmate Richard Vo are attempting to publish their research with Romanowsky. The astrophysics professor was the first to discover an extremely dense galaxy called an ultracompact dwarf galaxy. Sandoval was searching for one such galaxy when he found the hypercompact cluster. Romanowsky explained the relationship between hypercompact clusters and ultracompact dwarf galaxies: "If a dwarf galaxy is like an apple core, what Sandoval found is like the seeds."
An ultracompact dwarf galaxy:
Their research has not yet been peer-reviewed. But once verified, it could not only demonstrate the potential for research in undergraduate education, but also present a major breakthrough in our understanding of the universe.