Scientists said in reports published Wednesday that millions of light-years from Earth, a new galaxy that is incredibly similar to our own is hidden, surprisingly stable, and unpredictable. Scientists have said the discovery has changed the way galaxies shape their understanding.
According to a study published in the journal Nature, the galaxy, called SPT0418-47, is located 12 billion light-years away from earth. Astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics (MPI) used the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA), one of the world’s most powerful telescopes, to find a young galaxy.
Even the most powerful telescopes fail to capture accurate observations.
Yet using an effect called gravitational lensing, the team used the assistance of a nearby galaxy’s gravitational pull to act as a magnifying glass, enabling ALMA to see “in unparalleled detail into the distant past.”
The galaxy appears as an almost circular light triangle — a so-called “Einstein Circle.”
Since the galaxy is so far away, it is regarded by astronomers as it was when the universe was just 1.4 billion years old. They said that SPT0418-47 is “highly unchaotic”—contradictory to existing ideas that all young galaxies are” turbulent and unstable “as opposed to more mature galaxies like the Milky Way.
SPT0418-47 does not appear to possess spiral arms like the Milky Way. But both SPT0418-47 and our galaxy have spinning disks and bulges around their poles-huge clusters of closely packed stars.
Researchers used a new computer modeling technology to recreate the actual shape of the galaxy and the motion of its gas from ALMA data.
It is the first time scientists have detected a bulge so early in the universe ‘s history, the release said — making SPT0418-47 the “Milky Way look-alike” more distant.
“The big surprise was to find that this galaxy is very close to nearby galaxies, contrary to all model predictions and previous, less detailed observations,” said co-author Filippo Fraternali of the Netherlands Astronomical Institute of Kapteyn, University of Groningen.
Study of a baby galaxy that helps astronomers to see the universe only as it was just 10 percent of its current age is critical to understanding how galaxies are forming and developing. It’s unclear how a well-ordered galaxy could have evolved so long after the Big Bang, which suggests that the early universe might be less chaotic than it once was assumed.
While they have some similarities, astronomers expect SPT0418-47 to evolve into a galaxy that is distinctly alien to the Milky Way. They expect that it will ultimately become part of the elliptical galaxy class.
In the future, astronomers expect to determine how widespread and chaotic these baby disk galaxies are to further our knowledge of our own galaxy ‘s evolution.
“This finding represents a milestone in the field of galaxy formation, demonstrating that the structures we see in surrounding spiral galaxies and on our Milky Way were already in existence twelve billion years ago,” said co-author Francesca Rizzo, MPI Ph.D. student.