Astronomers have discovered a Milky Way replica. A galaxy situated far away from ours looks surprisingly like ours and its discovery promises new insights about the early universe.

According to the press release on Science Daily, astronomers used Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), partnering with European Southern Observatory (ESO) to locate the galaxy that is located 12 billion light-years away. "Extremely distant," "very young" and "surprisingly" like the Milky Way, this galaxy is called SPT0418-47.

It is said that the discovery of this galaxy challenges our existing theories about galaxy formation. Unlike the galaxies in the early universe, this new baby in the space is "surprisingly unchaotic." Therefore, it may assist in the development of a new understanding of the past of our Universe.

"This result represents a breakthrough in the field of galaxy formation, showing that the structures that we observe in nearby spiral galaxies and in our Milky Way were already in place 12 billion years ago," says Francesca Rizzo, the leading author of the study and Ph.D. student from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany.

So, what makes this galaxy like our universe? The research reveals that though the newly found galaxy lacks spiral arms, it has at least two features typical to our Milky Way. It has a rotating disc and a large group of stars at its centre creating a bulge that has never been observed before in the history of the early universe. Therefore, it is the most-distant look-alike of Milky Way.

"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," noted co-author Filippo Fraternali, from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

However, even the most powerful telescopes fail at providing detailed observations of galaxies so far. The team used effect known as gravitational lensing to create magnified imagery of their subject.

"In this effect, the gravitational pull from the nearby galaxy distorts and bends the light from the distant galaxy, causing it to appear misshapen and magnified," notes the press release.

The results were outstanding. Researchers said it was like a "treasure chest was opening." Scientists discovered that even though stars are forming at a very high rate and it remains a space of energetic processes, it is one of the most "well-ordered galaxy disc ever observed in the early universe." The discovery has left astronomers questioning the existing theories and beliefs.

Andromeda galaxy
Andromeda and Milky Way will merge into each other after some four billion years ESA/Hubble & NASA

"This result is quite unexpected and has important implications for how we think galaxies evolve," concludes co-author Simona Vegetti, also from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. The study is published in a journal named Nature.