Thursday, 24 May, 2018

Stars formed only 250 million years after the Big Bang

Hubble and ALMA image of MACS J1149.5+2223 Hubble and ALMA image of MACS J1149.5+2223
Velma Reese | 18 May, 2018, 03:38

The new details revealed that light from a galaxy dubbed MACS1149-JD1 was 13.28 billion lightyears old, an global team reported in the scientific journal Nature.

It's not the first time that ALMA has found distant sources of oxygen: The record has been broken many times.

The results demonstrate the usefulness of ALMA as a tool for measuring the red shift of distant galaxies, Rychard Bouwens, an astrophysicist at Leiden University, said in another article in Nature. This means that scientists are looking back in time.

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. The researchers report in Nature today that they then observed the galaxy in optical frequencies using the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes to understand its star formation, concluding that it must have begun 300 million years earlier.

"With this discovery we managed to reach the earliest phase of cosmic star formation history". Months later, another team led by Nicholas Laporte, co-author of the paper and a research fellow at the University of College London, found oxygen at 13.2 billion light years.

Star cluster MACS1149-JD1 is the most remote object in space, the distance to which they are able to determine. Within the galaxy, the team was surprised to discover faint signals of ionized oxygen that were emitted nearly 13.3 billion years ago (or 500 million years after the Big Bang).

In addition, ALMA also detected a weaker signal of hydrogen emission was also detected by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT).

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The team estimate that the galaxy had to be forging stars just some 250 million years after the Big Bang.

The approximate distance of the galaxy in the study, known as the MACS1149-JD1from that of ours was measured using the "Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (Alma), and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT)".

One of the most burning questions on astronomers" minds is: "When did the first galaxies emerge from total darkness?

Scientists calculated that the galaxy's stars must have formed 250 million years earlier. By establishing the age of MACS1149-JD1, the team has effectively demonstrated that galaxies existed earlier than those we can now directly detect.

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". The MACS1149-JD1 observation shows galaxies must have existed before any that are now detectable. "With these new observations of MACS1149-JD1, we are getting closer to directly witnessing the birth of starlight! Since we are all made of a processed stellar material, this is really finding our own origins".

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.

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