Just a few days ago, astronomers made an amazing discovery. The newest technologies and theories have helped astronomers in their using an advanced telescope to see a galaxy that formed over 11 billion years ago, less than a billion years after the Big Bang. This galaxy, currently known as A1689B11, is the oldest spiral galaxy discovered until now
What Is A1689B11, And Why Is It Significant?
A1689B11 is a spiral galaxy, just like our own home galaxy, the Milky Way. According to NASA, spiral galaxies are likely formed when elliptical galaxies combine. One of the biggest differences between the two is that spiral galaxies have arms that reach out from an elliptical center.
Renyue Cen, a senior research astronomer at Princeton, offered details and explanations about the latest discovery. According to Cen, spiral galaxies like this one were rare in the early days of the Universe. When spiral galaxies are first formed, they are chaotic and spread out, but they eventually settle into discs.
Because A1689B11 is so far away and its light takes billions of years to reach us, glimpsing it is like looking through a window into the past. Watching its changes could give scientists further clues and a new look into the formation of our own galaxy.
This discovery was made using the Gemini North telescope and its Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph, both located in Hawaii. On the Gemini Observatory’s website, they explain how the telescope, which can not see the A1689B11 galaxy, was able to detect its existence. Astronomers were able to locate the galaxy by noticing the way in which its presence affected the light and led to its bouncing off of other, nearer objects.
Thanks to innovative methods and technologies, this window into the past may provide exciting and unprecedented opportunities to learn about our own beginnings as a galaxy.
“We are able to look 11 billion years back in time and directly witness the formation of the first, primitive spiral arms of a galaxy,” states the study team.
Image Source: Wikimedia
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