Astronomers using ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) of telescopes in Chile have found a galaxy that looks just like the Milky Way located more than 12 billion light-years away from our own. Named SPT0418-47, this galaxy not only has a rotating disk-like structure, but also a large group of stars corralled around the galaxy’s center. Read more for two videos and additional information.

By studying this data, astronomers are able to look back in time to when the universe was 10% of its current age. Since it is so far away, astronomers had to use gravitational lensing – gravity of nearby galaxies to magnify distant galaxies by bending their light – to observe it with ALMA. Since this technique was used, SPT0418-47 appears as a ring of light around another galaxy.

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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. When I first saw the reconstructed image of SPT0418-47 I could not believe it: a treasure chest was opening,” said Francesca Rizzo, study author and postdoctoral student at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany.