Astronomers have spotted an extremely distant galaxy that looks “surprisingly” like the Milky Way. The galaxy, named SPT0418-47, looks as it was when the Universe was just 1.4 billion years old, just 10% of its current age. This is because it took more than 12 billion years for the light from this faraway galaxy to reach Earth. According to the researchers, the findings, published in the journal Nature, suggest that this galaxy is “surprisingly unchaotic, contradicting theories that all galaxies in the early Universe were turbulent and unstable”. Study co-author Simona Vegetti, from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, said: “What we found was quite puzzling; despite forming stars at a high rate, and therefore being the site of highly energetic processes, SPT0418-47 is the most well-ordered galaxy disc ever observed in the early Universe. “This result is quite unexpected and has important implications for how we think galaxies evolve.” Co-author Filippo Fraternali, from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen in the Netherlands, added: “The big surprise was to find that this galaxy is actually quite similar to nearby galaxies, contrary to all expectations from the models and previous, less detailed, observations.” Images of the galaxy were taken using European Southern Observatory’s Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), a group of telescopes in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Because SPT0418-47 is so far away, the astronomers took help from a nearby galaxy by converting it into a giant magnifying glass, an effect known as gravitational lensing. The result is a rather “misshapen and magnified” version of SPT0418-47, appearing in the sky as a near-perfect ring of light. The astronomers then used computer modelling to reconstruct the galaxy’s true shape and found that it resembled a lot like the Milky Way – with a rotating disc and a bulge, where a large group of stars are packed tightly around the galactic centre.