Rare Gas Cloud From Early Universe Discovered With Powerful Telescope

Posted: Dec 22 2018, 12:58pm CST | by , in Latest Science News

 

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Rare Cloud from Early Universe Discovered with Powerful Telescope
Credit: TNG COLLABORATION

The relic can help us understand how first stars and galaxies were formed after the Big Bang.

Astronomers have found a rare cloud of primordial gas that formed shortly after the Big Bang. The relic cloud is located in distant universe and was observed using world's most powerful optical telescope the W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii. The remarkable discovery could offer new information about how the universe and its galaxies were created.

"Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste heavy elements from exploding stars. But this particular cloud seems pristine, unpolluted by stars even 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang. If it has any heavy elements at all, it must be less than 1/10,000th of the proportion we see in our Sun. This is extremely low; the most compelling explanation is that it's a true relic of the Big Bang." Researcher Fred Robert from Swinburne University of Technology said in a statement.

The question of how first galaxies formed in the universe has long fascinated researchers. Researchers believe that heavy elements were not produced right after the Big Bang. Only lightest elements like hydrogen and helium were created and clumps of this primordial gas gave birth to the first generations of stars. Later, the universe's first stars exploded in powerful supernovae which led to the formation of heavier elements.

Researchers think that these first stars also spread their heavy elements into surrounding pristine gas upon death, so the gas clouds possibly carry a chemical record of the early universe. But it is hard to find pristine material in the universe as it is obscured by heavy elements. Until now, astronomers have discovered only two clouds of pristine gas. These clouds were detected in 2011 after analyzing the light from distant quasars.

Quasars, which emit a bright glow of material, provide a light source against which the spectral shadows of light elements in the gas cloud can be seen. Again, researchers observed the spectrum of a quasar behind the gas cloud. The lack of heavy elements suggested that the gas is pristine.

Co-author and Chief Scientist at Keck Observatory John O'Meara says. “The first two were serendipitous discoveries, and we thought they were the tip of the iceberg. But no one has discovered anything similar – they are clearly very rare and difficult to see. It's fantastic to finally discover one systematically.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.

 

 

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