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D75

Dwarf galaxy DDO 75. Image by Lowell intern Lauren Hill.

Lowell astronomer studies small galaxies for clues about how they form stars

While many research scientists actively look for the biggest, the furthest, the faintest (fill in the blank), Dr. Deidre Hunter studies small, diffuse galaxies that are not far from the Milky Way.

Today, Dr. Hunter leads the LITTLE THINGS survey, or Local Irregulars That Trace Luminosity Extremes (LITTLE) and The HI (neutral hydrogen) Nearby Galaxy Survey (THINGS), which involves a worldwide team of 17 researchers. They have assembled a complete dataset on 41 relatively normal, nearby gas-rich dwarf-irregular galaxies, tracing their stellar populations, gas content, dynamics, and star formation indicators. By mapping the gasses in these diffuse galaxies, the team can try to discern the many processes of star formation, which are thought to be similar in such galaxies to what they were in the early universe.

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