An image of an unusually clean small galaxy called, IC 1613. The galaxy, captured with the OmegaCAM camera on ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity.
AFP/ESO/Getty Images
January 27, 2016 12:01 AM EST

A new photo from the European Southern Observatory shows the our Milky Way has a next door neighbor—and a funky one at that.

The small galaxy of IC 1613, which is 2.3 million light-years away is notable for its lack of cosmic dust swirling among its scattered stars and the bright pink gas that gives it its unique color. The star cluster’s unusual cleanliness for a galaxy has helped astronomers chart the Universe’s grand expanse.

According to the observatory, IC 1613, which is located in the constellation of Cetus, is host to a number of notable star types that rhythmically pulsate, growing characteristically bigger and brighter at fixed intervals, similar to candle flames or light bulbs which appear dimmer the further they are away from us. That feature has made the galaxy an important resource for helping astronomers figure out the distance of outer space objects.

IC 1613 was discovered by German astronomer Max Wolf in 1906. Since then it has been confirmed that the galaxy is a member of the Local Group, a collection of more than 50 galaxies that include our home, the Milky Way.


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