Astronomers Confirm That A1689B11 Is The Oldest Spiral Galaxy Ever Discovered Outside Our Own
Spiral galaxy A1689B11 has excitingly just been confirmed by a team of astronomers as the oldest spiral galaxy ever to be discovered outside our own. This galaxy has been in existence for 11 billion years and was around just a mere 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang occurred. Even with around 100 billion galaxies lurking in the universe, spiral galaxy A1689B11 is believed to be one of the oldest, making it a very special galaxy.
By way of comparison, spiral galaxy A1689B11 is around 1 billion years older than Andromeda, our neighbor and also another spiral galaxy. However, it’s not just its age that is so remarkable to astronomers. One very special thing that astronomers have also noticed about A1689B11 is that when it comes to the formation of stars, this galaxy is currently forming them at a rate 20 times quicker than other galaxies.
Dr. Tiantian Yuan of Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, explained just how extraordinary the formation of stars is in spiral galaxy A1689B11, as Phys.org reports.
“This galaxy is forming stars 20 times faster than galaxies today – as fast as other young galaxies of similar masses in the early universe. However, unlike other galaxies of the same epoch, A1689B11 has a very cool and thin disc, rotating calmly with surprisingly little turbulence. This type of spiral galaxy has never been seen before at this early epoch of the universe.”
The Australian National University and Swinburne University of Technology have teamed up to study further details of spiral galaxy A1689B11 as part of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in All Sky Astrophysics in 3-D. To learn more about this galaxy, astronomers are using an impressive technique which merges gravitational lensing with an instrument known as a Near-infrared Integral Field Spectrograph.
Gravitational lenses are enormous clusters that are comprised of dark matter and numerous galaxies. These clusters act to magnify and bend the light of galaxies that are behind it on an absolutely massive scale, as Dr. Tiantian Yuan has explained. In this way, astronomers are able to gaze back in time to the creation of these spiral galaxies.
“This technique allows us to study ancient galaxies in high resolution with unprecedented detail. 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.”
Dr. Renyue Cen from Princeton University is one of the co-authors of the most recent study on A1689B11 and has said that by researching this spiral galaxy, astronomers will be able to glean more information about the Hubble sequence.
“Studying ancient spirals like A1689B11 is a key to unlocking the mystery of how and when the Hubble sequence emerges. Spiral galaxies are exceptionally rare in the early universe, and this discovery opens the door to investigating how galaxies transition from highly chaotic, turbulent discs to tranquil, thin discs like those of our own Milky Way galaxy.”
With the latest excitement over the revelation of the ancient age of spiral galaxy A1689B11 comes further research which will enable astronomers to learn more about our mysterious universe.
[Featured Image by NASA/Getty Images]