“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, ...