The ALMA radio telescope array captures a ring of fire – the light from a remote, well-formed galaxy more than 12 billion light years away that was gravitationally magnified as it was bent around an intervening galaxy. Analysis of the ring shows the more distant galaxy featured a central bulge like the Milky Way’s, the earliest known example of now commonplace structures. Image: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Rizzo et al.
Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, have found a gravitationally lensed galaxy shining just 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang that features a central bulge similar to those found in nearby galaxies. The remote galaxy appears surprisingly unchaotic and evolved in contradiction to current ideas about how galaxies formed in the early universe.
“This result represents a breakthrough in the field of galaxy formation, showing that the structures that we observe in nearby spiral galaxies and in our Milky Way were already in place 12 billion years ago,” said Francesca Rizzo, a Ph.D. student at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics who led the research.
The galaxy, known as SPT0418-47, appears as a “ring of fire” as its light is gravitationally bent around an intervening galaxy, magnifying features ...