First stars made after Big Bang identified

Distant galaxy hints at universe's earliest stars

Distant galaxy hints at universe's earliest stars

To find out when the stars in MACS1149-JD1 started shining, Hashimoto's team used infrared data from the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to determine the observed brightness of the galaxy was well explained by a model in which the onset of star formation was well underway just 250 million years after the Big Bang.

In a new study set for publication tomorrow in the journal Nature, an global team of astronomers used this impressive array to observe an extremely distant galaxy called MACS1149-JD1. To have a detectable amount of oxygen, MACS1149-JD1 would have had to go through a few generations of star births and deaths.

Scientists calculated that the galaxy's stars must have formed 250 million years earlier.

Another galaxy, GN-z11, is estimated to be 13.4 billion light years away based on observations with the Hubble Space Telescope, but those measurements were not as precise, they added. This period, commonly referred to as "cosmic dawn, ' is of particular interest because it marked the transition from a hot, dense, and almost homogeneous universe to the universe we are more familiar with today - one filled with stars, planets, nebulae, and people".

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.

A weaker hydrogen emission also was observed by the VLT, indicating a distance consistent with the oxygen observation.

Oxygen is only created in stars and then released into the gas clouds in galaxies when those stars die.


The galaxy's "red shift", a measurement technique that shows the distance to - and the age of - astronomical objects, was determined to be 9.1096, the largest value ever detected to date using spectral line analysis, the publication said.

Scientists believe that the Universe's first stars formed in regions of very dense matter, although understanding of that process is still limited. "This detection pushes back the frontiers of the observable universe".

"With this discovery we managed to reach the earliest phase of cosmic star formation history", Dr. Hashimoto said.

The distance of the faraway galaxy was calculated using ground-based telescopes in Chile and infrared data from orbiting telescopes, to reconstruct the early history of MACS1149-JD1.

Co-author Professor Richard Ellis, also from UCL, said: "Determining when cosmic dawn occurred is akin to the Holy Grail of cosmology and galaxy formation". Whether MACS1149-JD1 is just an outlier or the tip of an iceberg will have to wait for more observations.

The universe was created almost 13.8 billion years ago, after the Big Bang. "Since we are all made of processed stellar material, this is really finding our own origins".

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