The galaxy, called SPT0418-47, is located 12 billion light years from Earth, according to a study published in the journal Nature.
But using an effect called gravitational lensing, the team employed the help of the gravitational pull of a nearby galaxy to act as a magnifying glass, allowing ALMA to see "into the distant past in unprecedented detail." .
They said SPT0418-47 is "surprisingly unchaotic" — contradictory to prevailing theories that all young galaxies are "turbulent and unstable" compared to more mature galaxies like the Milky Way.
"What we found was quite puzzling; despite forming stars at a high rate, and therefore being the site of highly energetic processes, SPT0418-47 is the most well-ordered galaxy disc ever observed in the early Universe," co-author Simona Vegetti, from MPI, said in a press release Wednesday.
"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 co-author Francesca Rizzo, a PhD student from MPI.
This is the first time scientists have spotted a bulge so early on in the history of the universe, the release said — making SPT0418-47 the more distant "Milky Way look-alike."
"The big surprise was to find that this galaxy is actually quite similar to nearby galaxies, contrary to all expectations from the models and previous, less detailed, observations," said co-author Filippo Fraternali, from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen in the Netherlands
In the future, astronomers hope to discern just how common these baby disc galaxies are, and how chaotic they are, in order to further our understanding of the evolution of our own galaxy
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