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Ancient spiral galaxy is 11 billion years old

New observation could give insight into how such star systems sprout arms

By
7:00am, November 14, 2017
galaxy illustration

LONG AGO AND FAR AWAY  The oldest known spiral galaxy was spotted thanks to a cluster of galaxies in front of it acting as a gravitational lens. That effect helped astronomers produce two magnified images of the galaxy in different positions (insets within this artist’s illustration).   

Astronomers have spotted a spiral galaxy more ancient than any seen before.

The galaxy, called A1689B11, emitted its light 11 billion years ago, just 2.6 billion years after the Big Bang. Researchers had previously reported a spiral galaxy that dates to 10.7 billion years ago.

 Astronomer Tiantian Yuan at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia and colleagues found the new record-holder thanks to a closer cluster of galaxies, which acted as a gravitational lens that helped astronomers produce two magnified images of A1689B11 (SN: 3/10/12, p. 4). The team reported the find online at arXiv.org on October 31.

About 70 percent of galaxies in the modern universe display spiral arms. These gas-filled limbs are often where new stars form, and can constrain how big a galaxy’s central black hole grows. A1689B11 formed

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