A team of Japanese scientists says it has discovered the oldest spiral galaxy ever observed in the history of the universe.
Researchers at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and another institution made the announcement on Friday.
The team analyzed data using the ALMA telescope in Chile to examine the details of the structure of the galaxy that existed 12.4 billion years ago, and found two cords growing like a whirlpool from its center.
The researchers say the spiral structure was formed 1.4 billion years after the birth of the universe. They note that this galaxy contains a large mass of stars and gas, and is relatively large for this period.
A galaxy is believed to evolve into a larger object with spiral and other structures through repeated mergers with other galaxies. Until now, a spiral galaxy dating back 11.4 billion years was thought to be the oldest.
Professor Iguchi Satoru says he was surprised to discover such an ancient spiral galaxy. He adds that galaxies may have evolved earlier than previously thought.