Astronomers Discover a Young Milky Way Doppelganger from Billions of Years Ago

by: Qwynz B. Bonachita || Photo Credit: Artist’s Impression of the Milky Way in its Youth by James Josephides, Swinburne University

Did you know that even our Milky Way can have a doppelganger? Through the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), astronomers discovered that the Sparkler galaxy, galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, is a mirror image of the Milky Way in its youth. 

The Sparkler has been found in the southern sky in the constellation Volans at a redshift of 1.38, implying that the galaxy was discovered 9 million years ago—a few billion years after the well-known cosmic explosion, Big Bang. It is known for having two dozen sparkling globular clusters orbiting around it, surrounded by red and yellow sparkling dots, and a few dwarf galaxies slowly being swallowed up, similar to how the Milky Way was formed in the past.

Its mass is only 3% that of the Milky Way; however, it will soon advance and expand to become the size of our galaxy, with a growth spurt similar to what the Milky Way might have experienced.

The research was led by Professor Forbes of Swinburne University and Professor Aaron Romanowsky of San Jose State University.

“We appear to be witnessing, first hand, the assembly of this galaxy as it builds up its mass – in the form of a dwarf galaxy and several globular clusters,” Professor Forbes stated. 

He adds, “We are excited by this unique opportunity to study both the formation of globular clusters and an infant Milky Way, at a time when the Universe was only 1/3 of its present age.” 

Professor Romanowsky also commented, “The origin of globular clusters is a long-standing mystery, and we are thrilled that JWST can look back in time to see them in their youth.”


“Reconstructing the genesis of a globular cluster system at a look-back time of 9.1 Gyr with the JWST” by Duncan A Forbes and Aaron J Romanowsky, 26 December 2022, Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters. DOI: 10.1093/mnrasl/slac162

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