This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of galaxy NGC 1277. The galaxy is unique in that it is considered a relic of what galaxies were like in the early universe. The galaxy is composed exclusively of aging stars that were born 10 billion years ago. But unlike other galaxies in the local universe, it has not undergone any further star formation. Astronomers nickname such galaxies as "red and dead," because the stars are aging and there aren't any successive generations of younger stars. The telltale sign of the galaxy's "arrested development" lies in the ancient globular clusters that swarm around it. The reddish clusters are the strongest evidence that the galaxy went out of the star-making business long ago. Otherwise, there would be a lot of blue globular star clusters, which are largely absent. The lack of blue clusters suggests that NGC 1277 never grew further by gobbling up surrounding galaxies. The galaxy lives near the center of the Perseus cluster of over 1,000 galaxies, located 240 million light-years away from Earth. NGC 1277 is moving so fast through the cluster, at 2 million miles per hour, that it cannot merge with other galaxies to collect stars or pull in gas to fuel star formation. In addition, near the galaxy cluster center, intergalactic gas is so hot it cannot cool to condense and form stars.
Credits: NASA, ESA, and M. Beasley (Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias)