The formation of Milky Way–mass disk galaxies in the first 500 million years of a cold dark matter universe
Whether or not among the myriad tiny protogalaxies there exists a population with similarities to present-day galaxies is an open question. We show, using BlueTides, the first hydrodynamic simulation large enough to resolve the relevant scales, that the first massive galaxies to form are predicted to have extensive rotationally supported disks. Although their morphology resembles in some ways Milky Way types seen at much lower redshifts, these high-redshift galaxies are smaller, denser, and richer in gas than their low-redshift counterparts. From a kinematic analysis of a statistical sample of 216 galaxies at redshift z = 8–10, we have found that disk galaxies make up 70% of the population of galaxies with stellar mass or greater. Cold dark matter cosmology therefore makes specific predictions for the population of large galaxies 500 million years after the Big Bang. We argue that wide-field satellite telescopes (e.g., WFIRST) will in the near future discover these first massive disk galaxies. The simplicity of their structure and formation history should make new tests of cosmology possible.