Key Takeaways:

  1. Astronomers have discovered a galaxy, MACS1149-JD1, which is rotating like a record in the early universe, making it the most distant example of a rotational galaxy ever observed.
  2. JD1 was spotted 13.3 billion years after its light left, due to its extreme distance from Earth, and it existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.
  3. The rotational motion of galaxies like JD1 provides insights into how galaxies, including the Milky Way, formed.
  4. Researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array in Chile to measure subtle differences in light shift across JD1’s disk, revealing signs of rotation.
  5. JD1 is spinning at approximately 180,000 kilometers per hour, which is about a quarter of the Milky Way’s spin speed, and it is smaller in size compared to modern spiral galaxies, suggesting it may be in the early stages of rotation.
Hubble image of a cluster of galaxies with an inset image of galaxy MACS1149-JD1
A galaxy about 13.3 billion light-years away (inset in this image of a galaxy cluster from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) is the most distant galaxy to show signs of rotation. ALMA/ESO, NAOJ AND NRAO; NASA, ESA HUBBLE SPACE TELESCOPE; W. ZHENG/JHU, M. POSTMAN/STSCI; THE CLASH TEAM; T. HASIMOTO ET AL/NATURE 2018

In an astonishing discovery, astronomers have identified a galaxy, known as MACS1149-JD1 (or JD1 for short), that is exhibiting rotational motion in the early universe, making it the most remote instance of a rotating galaxy on record.

Dr. Akio Inoue, an astronomer from Waseda University in Tokyo, expressed excitement about this finding, emphasizing that JD1’s rotational motion holds crucial clues about the formation of galaxies like our own Milky Way.

Discovered in 2012, JD1’s light has traveled an astonishing 13.3 billion years to reach us, owing to its staggering distance from Earth. This immense temporal gap places JD1 in existence a mere 500 million years after the cataclysmic event known as the Big Bang.

To scrutinize JD1 in detail, astronomers employed the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array located in Chile, dedicating two months in 2018 to the endeavor.

Their meticulous observations revealed nuanced disparities in the shifting of light across JD1’s expansive disk. While the entire galaxy is indeed receding from Earth, the northern segment exhibits a slower rate of recession compared to the southern part—a telltale sign of rotation, as outlined in the July 1st issue of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

JD1’s rotational speed is estimated to be around 180,000 kilometers per hour, approximately one-fourth of the Milky Way’s rotational velocity. Moreover, JD1 is notably smaller in size when compared to contemporary spiral galaxies, implying that it may be in the early stages of its rotational journey.

This revelation offers a tantalizing glimpse into the distant cosmic past and sheds light on the enigmatic origins of galaxies like our own.

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