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How did this galaxy emerge from the chaos just 1.5 billion years after the big Bang?

25 May 2020, 13:00 UTC
How did this galaxy emerge from the chaos just 1.5 billion years after the big Bang?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Telescopes are time machines.

The farther away an object is, the longer it takes its light to get to us, so, in a sense, the farther in the past we see it. The most distant objects we see are so far away that their light took nearly the age of the Universe to reach us, so we see them as they were when the Universe was very young.

When we look at very distant galaxies (and therefore as they were when they were just getting started), we see that they are actually galaxy fragments: weird, distorted little things that are still growing. These fragments collide and merge with each other (further distorting their shapes for some time), eventually settling down into majestic elliptical and spiral galaxies like we see today. But, back then, they were still just irregular pieces.

Which is why it's so weird that astronomers just found what looks like a massive disk galaxy 12.3 billion light years away. In other words, this galaxy already had its act together less than 1.5 billion years after the Universe began! It's the most distant rotating disk galaxy ever seen.

The Wolfe Galaxy seen by the Very Large Array (green, left), ...

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