A team of astronomers has located a well-formed, spiral galaxy in the early universe where one just shouldn't be -- only three billion years from the Big Bang.
Theories of galaxy formation held that the Universe was still too chaotic a place to allow such a perfectly formed or "grand-design" spiral to form.
It should take far longer for gravity to bring matter into thin, neat discs.
But a team reporting in Nature says the galaxy BX442 got the gravitational "kick" it needed to form a spiral from a smaller "dwarf galaxy" orbiting it.
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Having proved that such grand-design spiral galaxies can exist at such an early age of the Universe, Dr Law said the team would now like to look into larger, wider-ranging galaxy surveys such as the Hubble telescope's ongoing Candels survey.