NGC 5253, located about 12 million light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Centaurus, is one of the nearest examples of a Blue Compact Dwarf galaxy, NASA reported Friday.
BCD galaxies contain molecular clouds that are quite similar to the pristine clouds that formed the first stars in the early universe, yet despite the low dust content and comparative lack of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium -- which are usually the basic ingredients for star formation -- they harbor very active star-formation regions, astronomers said.
The true nature of BCD galaxies has puzzled astronomers for a long time, NASA said.
NGC 5253 does contain some dust and heavier elements, but significantly less than that found in the Milky Way galaxy, astronomers said. Yet central regions are dominated by an intense star forming region that is embedded in an elliptical main body.
Astronomers have pointed out the possibility that the peculiar nature of NGC 5253 could result from a close encounter with the spiral galaxy Messier 83, its close neighbor.