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Twins of Milky Way Galaxy Discovered

Aug 24, 2012 07:48 AM EDT
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Scientists have discovered two galaxies that look as well as have common features like the Milky Way galaxy.

A group of international astronomers led by Dr. Aaron Robotham of the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) and Scotland's University of St. Andrews spotted two spiral galaxy systems that resemble the Milky Way galaxy.

The astronomers studied the data collected by the Galaxy and Mass Assembly survey, or GAMA, a project which studies the formation and evolution of 340,000 galaxies in the local universe. 

For the first time, they found as many as 14 galaxy systems similar to our galaxy, with two of them having an almost exact match with ours, reported space.com. "We found about 3 percent of galaxies similar to the Milky Way have companion galaxies like the Magellanic Clouds, which is very rare indeed," study leader Aaron Robotham, said in a statement.

"In total, we found 14 galaxy systems that are similar to ours, with two of those being an almost exact match," he added.

Both the newly found galaxies are spiral in shape like the Milky Way and share similar key features. They have satellite galaxies that look like Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) which are neighbors to the Milky Way galaxy.

The two Magellanic Clouds are dwarf galaxies that orbit the Milky Way system. They belong to the local group of more than 50 galaxies; most of them are dwarf galaxies.  While many galaxies have similar dwarf galaxies orbiting them, the two newly found galaxies have companions as large as the Magellanic Clouds.

It is quite a rare discovery as the researchers point out the difficulty in spotting similar galaxy systems like the Milky Way. But with latest telescopes, the experts were able to detect not just the galaxy but also their companions.

"We've never found another galaxy system like the Milky Way before, which is not surprising considering how hard they are to spot," Robotham told space.com. "It's only recently become possible to do the type of analysis that lets us find similar groups."

The findings were presented at the International Astronomical Union General Assembly in Beijing.

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