AUG 16, 2020 9:36 AM PDT

A Very Distant Galaxy From the Early Universe Is a Lot Like the Milky Way

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

With the power of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), astronomers have been able to identify a very young galaxy that looks a lot like our own. The light from this extremely distant galaxy has taken over 12 billion years to arrive here, so the astronomers' view of it comes from when the Universe was only 1.4 billion years old. Since galaxies were still forming in the early age of the Universe, scientists expected that they would lack structure and be less distinct than mature galaxies. The discovery was surprising because it reveals that there was less chaos at that time than scientists expected, and it has challenged ideas about how galaxies form. The findings have been reported in Nature.

"This result represents a breakthrough in the field of galaxy formation, showing that the structures that we observe in nearby spiral galaxies and in our Milky Way were already in place 12 billion years ago," says Francesca Rizzo, a graduate student at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany.

The galaxy, called SPT0418-47, has at least two of the same characteristics as the Milky Way; it has a rotating disc and a group of stars or bulge packed around its center. It does not seem to have spiral arms, but this is the first time such a bulge has been observed in the early Universe, and it's the most distant galaxy that resembles the Milky Way.

"The big surprise was to find that this galaxy is actually quite similar to nearby galaxies, contrary to all expectations from the models and previous, less detailed, observations," said the study co-author Filippo Fraternali of the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

Galaxies like SPT0418-47 are so far away, studying it can help us understand how galaxies evolve. Its light took so long to get here that we see it when the Universe was ten percent of its current age, while galaxies were just babies.

The distance of this galaxy was so vast, the researchers actually had to use another galaxy as a kind of magnifying glass to see it. This gravitational lensing technique distorts the view, causing the galaxy to look like a ring of light around the other galaxy. The true shape was reconstructed by the researchers with computational tools.

"When I first saw the reconstructed image of SPT0418-47 I could not believe it: a treasure chest was opening," said Rizzo.

"What we found was quite puzzling; despite forming stars at a high rate, and therefore being the site of highly energetic processes, SPT0418-47 is the most well-ordered galaxy disc ever observed in the early Universe," noted study co-author Simona Vegetti, also from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. "This result is quite unexpected and has important implications for how we think galaxies evolve."

The researchers added that while the galaxy has a lot in common with the Milky Way now, they expect it to grow into an elliptical and not a spiral galaxy.

Sources: Science Daily via European Southern Observatory, Nature

About the Author
BS
Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
AUG 10, 2022
Space & Astronomy
New Study Discusses Circle of Life for Supermassive Black Holes
AUG 10, 2022
New Study Discusses Circle of Life for Supermassive Black Holes
In a recent study published in The Astrophysical Journal, an international team of researchers discuss how black holes e ...
AUG 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
AUG 06, 2022
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
Stars are born in “stellar nurseries,” otherwise known as molecular clouds. Much research has been done to u ...
AUG 11, 2022
Space & Astronomy
The First-Ever Detection of Gas in a Circumplanetary Disk!
AUG 11, 2022
The First-Ever Detection of Gas in a Circumplanetary Disk!
A team of astronomers have made the first-ever detection of gas in a circumplanetary disk using the Atacama Large Millim ...
OCT 28, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Magma Is Still Shaping The Surface of Mars
OCT 28, 2022
Magma Is Still Shaping The Surface of Mars
New research from Nature Astronomy shows that magma is still shaping the surface of Mars to this day. Researchers at ETH ...
NOV 03, 2022
Space & Astronomy
JWST Takes Stunning Image of Pillars of Creation
NOV 03, 2022
JWST Takes Stunning Image of Pillars of Creation
The James Webb Space Telescope has taken not just one but two breathtaking images of the Pillars of Creation. Located in ...
NOV 14, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Have Discovered the Closest Black Hole to Earth
NOV 14, 2022
Astronomers Have Discovered the Closest Black Hole to Earth
Astronomers have discovered the closest known black hole to Earth. This historic discovery has been published in the Mon ...
Loading Comments...