Feb 16, 2023 - Science

JWST spots an infant galaxy like our own in the early universe

Artist's illustration of The Sparkler galaxy

Artist's illustration of The Sparkler. Image: James Josephides, Swinburne University

Scientists using the James Webb Space Telescope have found a galaxy that may look like a young version of our Milky Way.

Why it matters: By studying this galaxy and its potential growth, researchers may be able to learn more about our own galaxy and its early evolution.

What they found: The galaxy, called The Sparkler, appears to be surrounded by satellite galaxies and globular clusters, according to the study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

  • As the galaxy grows, it swallows those objects surrounding it, giving it the potential to grow into a galaxy like our own, the study suggests. The Milky Way is home to about 200 globular clusters.
  • "We appear to be witnessing, first hand, the assembly of this galaxy as it builds up its mass — in the form of a dwarf galaxy and several globular clusters," Duncan Forbes, one of the authors of the study, said in a statement.
  • "We are excited by this unique opportunity to study both the formation of globular clusters, and an infant Milky Way, at a time when the Universe was only 1/3 of its present age."

How it works: The Sparkler was seen by JWST as it looked through space and back 9 billion years, thanks to a lucky alignment of a dense cluster of galaxies that bent and magnified the light emitted by the more distant galaxy, allowing it to be seen.

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