Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

Star formation underway 250 million years after Big Bang

Star formation underway 250 million years after Big Bang

In addition, ALMA also detected a weaker signal of hydrogen emission was also detected by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). The recognition of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 demonstrates that these prior ages of stars had been now shaped and ousted oxygen by only 500 million years after the start of the Universe.

An global team of astronomers has used observations from ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to determine that star formation in the gravitationally lensed galaxy MACS1149-JD1 started only 250 million years after the Big Bang. Basic elements like oxygen, carbon and nitrogen weren't very common until the first stars had fired up, burnt out and exploded.

The study conducted by Takuya Hashimoto and his staff from the Osaka Sangyo University provides insight into the formation process of early stars and also indicates that upcoming space telescopes like the James Webb, that will substitute Hubble in orbit in early 2020, are likely to provide new insights into early star formation, says Bouwens.

The findings appear in the latest issue of Nature journal.

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In a new study set for publication tomorrow in the journal Nature, an worldwide team of astronomers used this impressive array to observe an extremely distant galaxy called MACS1149-JD1. It's this light signal that ALMA has picked up some 13 billion years later, although in that time the expansion of the universe has stretched the light into the millimeter wavelength. The distance to the galaxy determined from this observation is consistent with the distance from the oxygen observation. "This detection pushes back the frontiers of the observable universe".

MACS1149-JD1 is the most distant known galaxy with a precise distance measurement, said the researchers.

"With MACS1149-JD1, we have managed to probe history beyond the limits of when we can actually detect galaxies with current facilities".

The observed brightness of the galaxy is well explained by a model where the onset of star formation corresponds to a time only 250 million years after the Universe began.

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The study marked another step forward as scientists hunt for evidence of the first stars and galaxies that emerged from what had been total darkness in the aftermath of the Big Bang, a time sometimes called "cosmic dawn". 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.

"Determining when cosmic dawn occurred is akin to the holy grail of cosmology and galaxy formation", said Richard Ellis, co-author of the paper. The galaxy is believed to contain stars that were shining just 250 million years after the Big Bang. Whether MACS1149-JD1 is just an outlier or the tip of an iceberg will have to wait for more observations.

[1] ALMA has set the record for detecting the most distant oxygen several times.

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