newly discovered nearby galaxyHELLO, NEIGHBOR: The newfound galaxy Leo P, which lies some five million light-years away from the Milky Way.Image: From Katherine L. Rhode et al. in The Astronomical Journal,vol. 145, page 149; 2013. Reproduced by permission of the AAS.

In recent years astronomers have extended their view almost to the very edge of the observable universe. With the venerable Hubble Space Telescope researchers have spotted a handful of galaxies so faraway that we see them as they appeared just 400 million years or so after the big bang.

But even as astronomers peer ever deeper into the universe to explore the cosmic frontier, others are finding new realms to explore in our own backyard. Such is the case with Leo P, a dwarf galaxy that astronomers have just discovered in the Milky Way’s vicinity. At a distance of some five million or six million light-years from the Milky Way, Leo P is not quite a next-door neighbor, but on the vast scales of the universe it counts as a neighbor nonetheless.

Intriguingly, Leo P seems to have kept to itself, rarely if ever interacting with other galaxies. So the discovery, detailed in a series of studies in The Astronomical Journal, offers astronomers a rare glimpse at a cosmic object unsullied by disruptive galactic encounters. It also suggests the presence of other small galaxies that await discovery in our corner of the cosmos.

via Astronomers Discover New Neighbor Galaxy to the Milky Way: Scientific American.