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The Greatest Cosmic Puzzle: Astronomers Find Stars That Appear Older Than The Universe (Synopsis)

7 Sep 2017, 14:00 UTC
The Greatest Cosmic Puzzle: Astronomers Find Stars That Appear Older Than The Universe (Synopsis) NASA, ESA, H. Teplitz and M. Rafelski (IPAC/Caltech), A. Koekemoer (STScI), R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), and Z. Levay (STScI)
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

“The older you get, the more you realize that the way you look is a reflection of how you treat yourself.” -Hope Davis
Age may be just a number, but in cosmic terms, there are some rules it’s pretty important to obey. It should be impossible to have a complex creature that’s older than the planets; a rocky planet that predates the stars; or a star that’s older than the Universe itself. With a figure of 13.8 billion years, we’ve arrived at an incredibly accurate estimate for the age of the Universe since the Big Bang from a slew of different sources, and so nothing should be older than that.
Looking back a variety of distances corresponds to a variety of times since the Big Bang. However, if the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago, then the oldest stars must be no older than that figure. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI).
When we survey the stars in the Milky Way, however, we find not only many that are older than 12 billion years, but a few that may predate the galaxy itself, hailing from just 300 million years after the Big Bang. In one alarming find, ...

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