“Red Nugget” Galaxies Were Hiding In Plain Sight
In 2005 the Hubble Space Telescope spotted unusually small galaxies densely packed with red stars in the distant, young universe. They were nicknamed “red nuggets,” not only because they are small and red but also their existence challenged current theories of galaxy formation, making them precious in astronomers’ eyes.
Since no “red nuggets” were seen nearby, astronomers wondered why they had disappeared over time. New research shows that they didn’t disappear completely. In fact, they were simply hidden within the data of previous surveys.
Astronomers now realize these newfound compact galaxies could represent a missing link between distant “red nuggets” and nearby elliptical galaxies. They may light the evolutionary path to show how compact galaxies age over time and reveal whether they become the “seeds” for the monster ellipticals we see today.