A group of astronomers from the Center for Astrobiology in Madrid has discovered a remote galaxy that bears an incredible resemblance to our Milky Way. The discovery was made by the powerful James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
The JWST is the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, and it has a capability six times greater to capture light from the most distant objects in the universe. Thanks to this advantage, the JWST has been able to observe a spiral galaxy called ceers-2112, which existed when the universe was only 15% of its current age, about 11.7 billion years ago.
The most surprising aspect of this galaxy is that it has a structure very similar to that of the Milky Way, with a bar of stars and gas running through its center, like a line on a no-smoking sign. The Milky Way is also a spiral galaxy with a bar, believed to rotate like a roll of toilet paper and channel gas toward the center of the galaxy, triggering the formation of new stars.
Astronomers used to think that this structure was a sign of maturity in galaxies and could only be seen in ancient galaxies, perhaps those that existed halfway through the universe’s evolution. In fact, observations from the Hubble Space Telescope showed that the early universe had very few galaxies with bars.
However, the discovery of ceers-2112 by a group of astronomers led by Luca Costantin challenges this idea and suggests that galaxies resembling ours existed much earlier than previously believed.
The discovery of ceers-2112 opens the door to new scenarios about the formation and evolution of galaxies, raising the question of what key physical factor is missing in current models that cannot explain the presence of this ancient galaxy so similar to our own.