First stars made after Big Bang identified

First stars made after Big Bang identified

First stars made after Big Bang identified

When that light was produced in MACS1149-JD1 it was in the infrared, but during its billions of years journeying to Earth, the expansion of the universe stretched it out to the microwave frequencies that ALMA is sensitive to. Previously, astronomers due to limitations in technology only researched lights in the MACS1149-JD1, but with the help of high-precision telescopes, they were able to prove that the most remote from Earth, the galaxy, there are traces of oxygen.

The work of Takuya Hashimoto and his group at Osaka Sangyo University sheds light on the formation of the first stars and suggests that future telescopes - such as the James Webb Space Telescope, which will replace the Hubble 'scope in orbit starting in 2020 - could find new evidence on the formation of first-generation stars, Bouwens said.

Astronomers have used observations from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array and ESO's Very Large Telescope to determine that star formation in the very distant galaxy MACS1149-JD1 started at an unexpectedly early stage, only 250 million years after the Big Bang.

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"The mature stellar population in MACS1149-JD1 implies that stars were forming back to even earlier times, beyond what we can now see with our telescopes", says Nicolas Laporte, an astronomer on the research team.

Soon after the Big Bang, there was no oxygen in the universe, but the fusion processes of the first stars released it when they began to die. At the time of the observation, the Japanese researchers noticed that this galaxy housed numerous 300 million years old stars. The detection of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 indicates that these earlier generations of stars had been already formed and expelled oxygen by just 500 million years after the beginning of the universe.

Researchers think that the earliest stars in the Universe were built in areas with a very high density of matter, even though comprehension of this phenomenon is not yet well-defined. But for the galaxy to have enough oxygen to be visible, it must have been creating stars for around 250 million years before that, making it one of the earliest known star-producing galaxies. Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, W. Zheng (JHU), M. Postman (STScI), the CLASH Team, Hashimoto et al.

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Mystery surrounds the time the first galaxies emerged from total darkness, an epoch known as the "cosmic dawn". By establishing the age of MACS1149-JD1, the team has effectively demonstrated that galaxies existed earlier than those we can now directly detect.

"There is renewed optimism we are getting closer and closer to witnessing directly the birth of starlight. Since we are all made of processed stellar material, this is really finding our own origins". "It is truly remarkable that ALMA detected an emission line - the fingerprint of a particular element - at such a record-breaking distance".

[2] This corresponds to a redshift of about 15.

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