How can a galaxy full of billions of stars be considered small and lonely?

This striking explosion of cosmic color is the galaxy DDO 190. But whatever its aesthetic merits, it's nothing special in scientific terms — indeed, it's rather unflatteringly termed a dwarf irregular galaxy. It's also one of the loneliest galaxies around.

While it's kind of hard to believe it when looking at this beautiful image from the Hubble Telescope, DDO 190 is considered a relatively unimpressive galactic specimen due to its small size and lack of structure. It's the kind of minor galaxy that would get lost in the shuffle around a larger galaxy like our own Milky Way, which completely overshadows its little satellite galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds. Weirdly, that's about the only thing little DDO 190 has going for it. Completely isolated from all other galaxies, it's the rare dwarf galaxy that actually gets a chance to shine. NASA explains:

DDO 190 lies around nine million light-years away from our solar system. It is considered part of the loosely associated Messier 94 group of galaxies, not far from the Local Group of galaxies that includes the Milky Way. Canadian astronomer Sidney van der Bergh was the first to record DDO 190 in 1959 as part of the DDO catalog of dwarf galaxies. Although within the Messier 94 group, DDO 190 is on its own. The galaxy's nearest dwarf galaxy neighbor, DDO 187, is thought to be no closer than three million light-years away. In contrast, many of the Milky Way's companion galaxies, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, reside within a fifth or so of that distance, and even the giant spiral of the Andromeda Galaxy is closer to the Milky Way than DDO 190 is to its nearest neighbor.

For more on this image, check out NASA's website.