Astronomers have identified the oldest known Spiral Galaxy in the universe, which was formed around 12.4 billion years ago, after rediscovering a fuzzy, forgotten photo taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. The new galaxy, which is called BRI 1335-0417, measures 15,000 light-years across, making it a third as big as our spiral-shaped home galaxy, the Milky Way.
The galaxy formed around 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang which makes it the earliest example of a Spiral Galaxy. It beats the previous oldest spiral, detected in 2019, by around 1.1 billion years. The oldest known galaxy in existence remains GN-z11, which formed around 400 million years after the Big Bang.Researchers discovered the ancient galaxy after finding a photo of it in the Atacama Large Millimeter Array archive. To the untrained eye, the image may look blurry, but it contains a surprising amount of detail for such a distant galaxy.
The researchers believe that it holds the same amount of mass as the Milky Way, despite being much smaller, and that its spiral arms were likely hotspots for star formation. The galaxy could be so dense because it formed from a violent collision between two smaller galaxies.BRI 1335-0417 could also provide some clues to what eventually happens to the Spiral Galaxy. Astronomers believed that spirals are precursors to elliptical galaxies, but exactly how this transformation occurs is still a mystery.