Technology Oxygen presence in distant galaxy sheds light on early universe

11:06  17 may  2018
11:06  17 may  2018 Source:   reuters.com

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Green represents the light that indicates the presence of ionized oxygen ; purple shows ionized hydrogen. This local gas could trap the light within the galaxy . So we need some observations of the early Universe to understand what drove reionization.

Star formation began about 200 million years earlier than previously believed. Astronomers have found stardust in a galaxy 13.2 billion light years away. Besides interstellar dust, ALMA also detected ionic oxygen , making it the most distant detection of oxygen in the universe .

a green traffic light at night: Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223 and ALMA image of the galaxy MACS1149-JD1 located 13.28 billion light-years away© REUTERS Hubble Space Telescope image of the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+2223 and ALMA image of the galaxy MACS1149-JD1 located 13.28 billion light-years away After detecting a whiff of oxygen, astronomers have determined that stars in a faraway galaxy formed 250 million years after the Big Bang -- a rather short time in cosmic terms -- in a finding that sheds light on conditions in the early universe.

Their research, published on Wednesday, provides insight into star formation in perhaps the most distant galaxy ever observed. The scientists viewed the galaxy, called MACS1149-JD1, as it existed roughly 550 million years after the Big Bang, which gave rise to the universe about 13.8 billion years ago.

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Nevertheless, the detection of light from ionized oxygen in very distant galaxies was a new challenge for ALMA. Faintest early - universe galaxy ever, detected and confirmed. May 19, 2016.

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Light emitted by MACS1149-JD1 traveled 13.28 billon light years before reaching Earth. Looking across such distances lets scientists peer back in time. A light year is the distance light travels in a year, 5.9 trillion miles (9.5 trillion km).

The detection of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 was particularly instructive. The universe initially was devoid of elements such as oxygen, carbon and nitrogen, which were first created in the fusion furnaces of the earliest stars and then spewed into interstellar space when these stars reached their explosive deaths.

The presence of oxygen showed that an even earlier generation of stars had formed and died in MACS1149-JD1 and that star formation in that galaxy began about 250 million years after the Big Bang when the universe was only about 2 percent of its current age, the researchers said.

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George P Mitchell wanted to bring the most eminent minds in physics and astronomy to Texas A&M to find a distant galaxy cluster to shed light on and are viewed as important building blocks with the power to unlock the mysteries of galaxy evolution and conditions in the universe ’s earliest moments.

This is the most distant galaxy in which oxygen has ever been unambiguously detected, and it is most likely being ionized by powerful radiation from young giant stars. Ancient Stardust Sheds Light on the First Stars. Assembly of Galaxies in the Early Universe Witnessed for the First Time.

The oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 was the most distant ever detected.

"Prior to our study, there were only theoretical predictions of the earliest star formation. We have for the first time observed the very early stage of star formation in the universe," said astronomer Takuya Hashimoto of Osaka Sangyo University in Japan.

The study marked another step forward as scientists hunt for evidence of the first stars and galaxies that emerged from what had been total darkness in the aftermath of the Big Bang, a time sometimes called "cosmic dawn."

"With these observations, we are pushing back the limit of the observable universe and, therefore, we are coming closer to the cosmic dawn," University College London astronomer Nicolas Laporte said, adding that computer simulations suggest that the first stars appeared around 150 million years after the Big Bang.

The researchers confirmed the distance of the galaxy with observations from ground-based telescopes in Chile and reconstructed the earlier history of MACS1149-JD1 using infrared data from orbiting telescopes.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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