ALMA spies a distant Milky Way doppelgänger

Astronomers have used the ALMA, Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array to observe an extremely distant galaxy that looks surprisingly like our Milky Way. The researchers say that the galaxy is very young, and the light from the galaxy has taken over 12 billion years to reach us. Scientists view the galaxy as it was when the universe was only 1.4 billion years old.

One surprise is that the scientists say the galaxy is surprisingly unchaotic, which contradicts theories that believe all galaxies in the early Universe were turbulent and unstable. The discovery could change the understanding of how galaxies form and give new insights into the universe. The official name for the galaxy is SPT0418-47, and it doesn't appear to have spiral arms.

However, it does have two features typical of the Milky Way, including a rotating disc and a bulge. The bulge is a section of the galaxy where groups of stars are packed tightly around the galactic center. This is the first time a bulge has been seen this early in the history of the universe.

Scientists say in the early universe, young galaxies were still forming. Researchers expect them to be chaotic and lack the distinctive structures typical of more mature galaxies in the Milky Way. SPT0418-47 is so far away that we see it as it was when the universe was only 10% of its current age.

Scientists are essentially going back in time when they observe this galaxy. The galaxy in the image above certainly doesn't look like the Milky Way. Scientists say that it is gravitationally lensed and appears as a near-perfect ring of light. The team was able to reconstruct its actual shape and the motion of its gas from ALMA data using a new computer modeling technique. Further studies will try and uncover more details about how this sort of galaxy formed and whether they are all less chaotic than predicted.