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James Webb telescope found distant galaxies that look just like the Milky Way

Updated Jan 12th, 2023 3:57PM EST
ancient milky way core
Image: udoikel09 / Adobe

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The Milky Way is a spectacular galaxy, not just because it is home to our solar system but also because of its bar-like design. Now, astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have discovered barred Milky Way-like galaxies much further back in time than we previously expected to find them.

In modern times, around two-thirds of the spiral galaxies we have discovered are “barred.” This means that they have a massive structure that resembles a bar running through their core. This bar is made up of dust and gas as the galaxy funnels it from the outer reaches of the galaxy to the center, fueling new star formation and the growth of black holes.

It’s an intriguing way for the galaxies to continue growing, but what is intriguing about this discovery is that these bars weren’t believed to be a part of older galaxies. It was generally believed that these bars only appeared in Milky Way-like galaxies at a particular stage in the spiral galaxy’s evolution. Many believed there was a time when barred galaxies didn’t exist.

great barred spiral galaxyImage source: u/SpaceGuy44 / STScI

However, new data gathered by James Webb has once again turned everything we thought we knew on its head. A series of distant galaxies were recently observed using James Webb. Astronomers had previously inspected these galaxies with the Hubble Space Telescope. However, the more powerful instruments aboard Webb allowed us to see the bar within these Milky Way-like galaxies this time.

One of the galaxies in question is EGS-30836, and when the bars were spotted, astronomers working on a new study dropped everything to look deeper into the galactic structure of Milky Way-like galaxies from ages past. These galaxies were all located between eight and 11 billion light-years away, meaning that bars grew into galaxies much earlier than previously believed.

The researchers are set to publish their findings in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, and future papers plan to test different models of galactic evolution, so they can find the best way to observe new galaxies in the future.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.