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And Then There Was Light: Looking for the First Stars in the Universe

10 Sep 2019, 06:37 UTC
And Then There Was Light: Looking for the First Stars in the Universe
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Astronomers are closing in on a signal that has been travelling across the Universe for 12 billion years, bringing them nearer to understanding the life and death of the very earliest stars.In a paper on the preprint site arXiv and soon to be published in the Astrophysical Journal, a team led by Dr Nichole Barry from Australia's University of Melbourne and the ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) reports a 10-fold improvement on data gathered by the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) - a collection of 4096 dipole antennas set in the remote hinterland of Western Australia.The MWA, which started operating in 2013, was built specifically to detect electromagnetic radiation emitted by neutral hydrogen - a gas that comprised most of the infant Universe in the period when the soup of disconnected protons and neutrons spawned by the Big Bang started to cool down.Eventually these hydrogen atoms began to clump together to form stars - the very first ones to exist - initiating a major phase in the evolution of the Universe, known as the Epoch of Reionisation, or EoR."Defining the evolution of the EoR is extremely important for our understanding of astrophysics and ...

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