‘Most distant double of our Milky Way discovered’ – Science

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Astronomers have discovered an extremely distant and thus very young galaxy that looks surprisingly similar to our Milky Way. The European Southern Observatory ESO has announced this.

The galaxy is so distant that its light has taken more than 12 billion years to reach us: we see it as it was when the Universe was only 1.4 billion years old. It is also surprisingly orderly, which contradicts the theory that all galaxies in the early Universe were turbulent and unstable.

It is the galaxy SPT0418-47 that was outwitted with the ALMA radio telescope in Chile. Although it does not appear to have spiral arms, it has at least two features characteristic of our Milky Way: a rotating disk and a central bulge or ‘bulge’, a large group of stars gathered around the center of the galaxy.

It is the first time that such a bulge has been observed so early in the history of the universe, emphasizes the ESO of which Belgium is a founding member.

It makes SPT0418-47 the most distant double from the Milky Way. ‘The big surprise was that, contrary to what was expected on the basis of model calculations and earlier, less accurate observations, this galaxy is quite similar to nearby galaxies,’ says Filippo Fraternali of the University of Groningen.

The young galaxies in the early Universe were not yet fully grown. Therefore, astronomers expected them to be chaotic and not exhibit the unmistakable structures typical of adult galaxies such as the Milky Way. The investigation of distant galaxies such as SPT0418-47 is essential to our understanding of how galaxies formed and evolved, according to ESO. It provides new insights about the past of our universe.

This galaxy is so distant that we see it when the Universe was only ten percent of its present age. It took his light 12 billion years to reach Earth. By studying this system, we go back to a time when the development of these baby systems had only just started.

Because these galaxies are so distant, detailed observations with even the most powerful telescopes are nearly impossible: the galaxies normally appear as tiny, faint specks. The team was able to overcome this obstacle by using a nearby galaxy that acts as a powerful magnifying glass – a phenomenon called the gravitational lens effect. In this effect, the light from the distant galaxy is distorted and deflected by the gravitational pull of the lens system.

With the help of this ‘lens system’, ALMA was able to look into the distant past with unprecedented detail. This makes the distant galaxy look much larger and appear misshapen. In this case, SPT0418-47 appears as an almost perfect ring of light around the lens system. That’s because the two galaxies are almost exactly aligned.

The research was led by Francesca Rizzovan of the Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik in Germany. The results are in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

The galaxy is so distant that its light has taken more than 12 billion years to reach us: we see it as it was when the Universe was only 1.4 billion years old. It is also surprisingly orderly, which contradicts the theory that all galaxies in the early Universe were turbulent and unstable – the galaxy SPT0418-47 that was outwitted by the ALMA radio telescope in Chile. Although it does not appear to have spiral arms, it has at least two features characteristic of our Milky Way: a rotating disk and a central bulge or ‘bulge’, a large group of stars that have gathered around the center of the galaxy. It is the first time that such a bulge has been observed so early in the history of the universe, emphasizes the ESO of which Belgium is a founding member. It makes SPT0418-47 the most distant double from the Milky Way. ‘The big surprise was that, contrary to what was expected on the basis of model calculations and earlier, less accurate observations, this galaxy is quite similar to nearby galaxies,’ says Filippo Fraternali of the University of Groningen. The young galaxies in the early Universe were not yet fully grown. Therefore, astronomers expected them to be chaotic and not exhibit the unmistakable structures typical of adult galaxies such as the Milky Way. The investigation of distant galaxies such as SPT0418-47 is essential to our understanding of how galaxies formed and evolved, according to ESO. It provides new insights about the past of our universe. This galaxy is so distant that we see it when the Universe was only ten percent of its present age. It took his light 12 billion years to reach Earth. By studying this system, we go back to a time when the development of these baby systems had only just started. Because these galaxies are so distant, detailed observations with even the most powerful telescopes are nearly impossible: the galaxies normally appear as tiny, faint specks. The team was able to overcome this obstacle by using a nearby galaxy that acts as a powerful magnifying glass – a phenomenon called the gravitational lens effect. In this effect, the light from the distant galaxy is distorted and deflected by the gravitational pull of the lens system. With the help of this ‘lens system’, ALMA was able to look into the distant past with unprecedented detail. This makes the distant galaxy look much larger and appear misshapen. In this case, SPT0418-47 appears as an almost perfect ring of light around the lens system. That’s because the two galaxies are almost exactly aligned. The research was led by Francesca Rizzovan of the Max-Planck-Institut für Astrophysik in Germany. The results are in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

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