Tuesday December 05, 2023

James Webb Space Telescope discovers Milky Way twin in early universe

The galaxy, named ceers-2112, challenges previous notions about galaxy evolution

By Web Desk
November 12, 2023
This picture of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 6744, which could be the Milky Ways twin, was taken at the European Southern Observatorys La Silla Observatory in Chile. — ESO
This picture of the nearby spiral galaxy NGC 6744, which could be the Milky Way's twin, was taken at the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory in Chile. — ESO

In a celestial breakthrough, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), alongside an international research team featuring UCR astronomer Alexander de la Vega, has identified the most distant barred spiral galaxy, named ceers-2112, resembling the Milky Way. 

This discovery challenges conventional beliefs about galaxy evolution, suggesting that barred spiral galaxies could form and exhibit order much earlier in the universe's history than previously thought.

Published in the journal Nature and led by scientists at the Centro de Astrobiología in Spain, the research sheds light on ceers-2112, hosting a central galactic bar—a structure made up of stars. 

Traditionally, barred spiral galaxies like the Milky Way were assumed to emerge after the universe reached half of its current age of approximately 13.8 billion years.

De la Vega, a coauthor and postdoctoral researcher at UCR, highlights the unexpected nature of ceers-2112, challenging the prevailing notion that early-universe galaxies were primarily chaotic and lacked structures akin to the Milky Way.

The presence of a galactic bar in ceers-2112 suggests an accelerated maturation process, challenging existing theories on galaxy formation and evolution. Contrary to the previous assumption that several billion years were needed for galaxies to achieve the level of order conducive to developing bars, this discovery proposes that such structures can manifest in about one billion years or less.

De la Vega's contributions to the research involved estimating the redshift and properties of ceers-2112, providing crucial insights into the galaxy's characteristics and aiding in the interpretation of measurements. 

The discovery not only prompts revisions to theoretical models of galaxy evolution but also opens new avenues for detecting similar structures in the early universe, marking a significant milestone in the field of astronomy.