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Astronomers Detect First Stars 'Bubbling Out' from the Cosmic Dark Ages

12 Jan 2020, 17:56 UTC
Astronomers Detect First Stars 'Bubbling Out' from the Cosmic Dark Ages
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Astronomers using the Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory, a program of NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, have identified several overlapping bubbles of hydrogen gas ionized by the stars in early galaxies, a mere 680 million years after the Big Bang. This is the earliest direct evidence from the period when the first generation of stars formed and began reionizing the hydrogen gas that permeated the Universe.There was a period in the very early Universe — known as the “cosmic dark ages” — when elementary particles, formed in the Big Bang, had combined to form neutral hydrogen but no stars or galaxies existed yet to light up the Universe. This period began less than half a million years after the Big Bang and ended with the formation of the first stars. While this stage in the evolution of our Universe is indicated by computer simulations, direct evidence is sparse.Now, astronomers using the infrared imager NEWFIRM on the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory of NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (OIR Lab), have reported imaging a group of galaxies, known as EGS77, that contains these first stars. Their results were announced at a press conference ...

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