Oldest Spiral Galaxy Shocks Astronomers

'Grand-design' spiral formed only 3B years after Big Bang

By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 20, 2012 5:45 PM CDT

(Newser) – An ancient galaxy has flabbergasted astronomers. The perfectly formed spiral galaxy was born eons ago, a mere 3 billion years after the Big Bang. But this galaxy type was considered impossible so early on, when the cosmos was too chaotic to mold a "grand-design" spiral. How did it appear? Researchers say the old star system, dubbed BX442, formed because it received a gravitational "kick" from a smaller "dwarf galaxy" in its orbit, reports BBC.

"You can get a little extra help if you've got a satellite galaxy orbiting around," explains one scientist. "It gives that extra little gravitational kick to help accentuate the strength of the arm and make it into one of those eye-popping examples like the Whirlpool galaxy that you see all the pictures of."

A stock illustration of a spiral galaxy.
A stock illustration of a spiral galaxy.   (Shutterstock)
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