The discovery of the pristine Leo P could be a bit of a happy accident—its current bout of star formation made the galaxy stand out. “If there hadn’t been some of these bright young blue stars—and they only have lifetimes in the millions of years, not the billions of years—it would have been much harder to pick up this thing,” says astronomer Katherine Rhode of Indiana University Bloomington, who led the optical observations of the galaxy.
Astronomers may soon know whether other, similar objects lurk nearby. In a new study in The Astrophysical Journal, Giovanelli and two colleagues catalogued 59 additional clouds of gas that were spotted in the same sky survey that unearthed Leo P. On further inspection some of those clouds may also prove to be low-mass galaxies that are faint enough to have so far escaped notice. “We have many dozens of these objects now,” Giovanelli says. “We’re going to see which we can pull out of the muck.”