Stars formed only 250 million years after the Big BangMay 16, 2018
Stars in a galaxy 13.28 billion light years away formed only 250 million years after the Big Bang, finds a team of international astronomers led by groups at UCL and Osaka Sangyo University in Japan.
The discovery shows that stars in the galaxy - called MACS1149-JD1 - formed at an unexpectedly early stage in the age of the Universe and the new observations break the team's own record for detecting the most distant known source of oxygen.
The team confirmed the distance of the galaxy through observations undertaken with the Atacama Large Millimetre/Submillimetre Array (ALMA) and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT); the distance corresponds to looking back to a time when the Universe was only 500 million years old, which is 3.5% of its present age.
Although the presence of galaxies at this epoch is not necessarily surprising, the detection of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 indicates a more remarkable conclusion. Oxygen is only created in stars and then released into the gas clouds in galaxies when those stars die. The presence of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 therefore indicates that a previous generation of stars had already formed and died at an even earlier time.
"This is an exciting discovery as this galaxy is seen at a time when the Universe was only 500 million years old and yet it already has a population of mature stars. We are therefore able to use this galaxy to probe into an earlier, completely uncharted, period of cosmic history!" explained Dr Nicolas Laporte, second author and a postdoctoral researcher at UCL who led the VLT observing campaign."
The study, published today in the journal Nature, was an international and collaborative effort. The Japanese team, led by Dr Takuya Hashimoto and Professor Akio Inoue of the Osaka Sangyo University, used ALMA to observe the distant galaxy called MACS1149-JD1. They detected a signal from ionised oxygen whose infrared light was stretched ten-fold to microwave wavelengths by the expansion of the Universe.
Dr Laporte independently confirmed the inferred distance of 13.28 billion light years by detecting emissions of hydrogen using the VLT . These signals also stretched to near-infrared wavelengths, making MACS1149-JD1 the most distant known galaxy with a precise distance measurement .
ALMA has set the record for the most distant known source several times. In 2016, Professor Inoue and his colleagues detected oxygen emission at 13.1 billion light-years. Several months later, Dr Laporte used ALMA to detect oxygen at 13.2 billion light-years away. Both teams merged efforts to achieve this new record.
"ALMA is now clearly the most powerful instrument for securing distances to galaxies in the early Universe ahead of the expected launch of the James Webb Space Telescope," commented Professor Richard Ellis, a co-author also at UCL.
The team reconstructed the earlier history of MACS1149-JD1 using infrared data taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. The observed brightness of the galaxy is well explained by a model where the onset of star formation corresponds to a time only 250 million years after the Universe began.
The maturity of the stars seen in MACS1149-JD1 raises the question of when the very first galaxies emerged from total darkness, an epoch astronomers call `cosmic dawn'.
By establishing the age of MACS1149-JD1, the team has effectively demonstrated the existence of early galaxies to times earlier than those where we can currently directly detect them.
Professor Ellis said: "Determining when cosmic dawn occurred is akin to the `Holy Grail' of cosmology and galaxy formation. With MACS1149-JD1, we have managed to probe history beyond the limits of when we can actually detect galaxies with current facilities. There is renewed optimism we are getting closer and closer to witnessing directly the birth of starlight. Since we are all made of processed stellar material, this is really finding our own origins."
 The galaxy GN-z11 is thought to be located 13.4 billion light-years away based on observations with the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). But the precision of that distance measurement with is significantly lower than that of MACS1149-JD1 which is based on the use of two independent emission lines from atoms of hydrogen and oxygen.
University College London
Related Big Bang Articles:
A Dartmouth study finds that 'Big Food' companies are striving to make food more sustainable from farm to factory but have less power than you might think.
The Simons Observatory will be built in the Chilean Atacama desert for the purposes of studying primordial gravitational waves which originated in the first instants of the Big Bang.
Researchers find cost-effective solutions to sediment runoff and other land-based pollution affecting West Maui reefs
Astronomers at Lomonosov Moscow State University in cooperation with their French colleagues and with the help of citizen scientists have released 'The Reference Catalog of galaxy SEDs,' which contains value-added information about 800,000 galaxies.
Struggling to get your creative juices flowing for a new idea or project?
Do big-brained creatures steal energy for them from other organs or eat more to supply this expensive tissue?
Swansea University physicists working with an international collaborative team at CERN, conduct the first precision study of antihydrogen, the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen.
A multi-disciplinary team of researchers at UC Riverside has received $3 million from the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship program to prepare the next generation of scientists and engineers who will learn how to exploit the power of big data to understand insects.
A Griffith University physicist is challenging the conventional view of space and time to show how the world advances through time.
A team of physicists just received $2.1 million in funding for 2016-2017 from DOE's Advanced Scientific Computing Research program to enhance a 'workload management system' for handling the ever-increasing data demands of two experiments at the Large Hadron Collider and expanding its use as a general workload management service for a Department of Energy supercomputer.
Related Big Bang Reading:
Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe
by Simon Singh (Author)
A half century ago, a shocking Washington Post headline claimed that the world began in five cataclysmic minutes rather than having existed for all time; a skeptical scientist dubbed the maverick theory the Big Bang. In this amazingly comprehensible history of the universe, Simon Singh decodes the mystery behind the Big Bang theory, lading us through the development of one of the most extraordinary, important, and awe-inspiring theories in science.View Details
Bang!: How We Came to Be
by Michael Rubino (Author)
"Bang! And that was it, the beginning of everything."
So begins this beautifully illustrated, panoramic story of evolution. Author and illustrator Michael Rubino conveys not only the facts but also the excitement of the scientific explanation of our world, from the origin of the universe in the big bang to the present reality of our planet, teeming with life but threatened by overpopulation and pollution.
Parents looking for an easy-to-understand guide to the scientific worldview for their children will find the perfect source here. The formation of stars and galaxies; the... View Details
George and the Big Bang (George's Secret Key)
by Stephen Hawking (Author), Lucy Hawking (Author), Garry Parsons (Illustrator)
Explore how the universe began—and thwart evil along the way—in this cosmic adventure from Stephen and Lucy Hawking that includes a graphic novel.
George has problems. He has twin baby sisters at home who demand his parents’ attention. His beloved pig Freddy has been exiled to a farm, where he’s miserable. And worst of all, his best friend, Annie, has made a new friend whom she seems to like more than George. So George jumps at the chance to help Eric with his plans to run a big experiment in Switzerland that seeks to explore the earliest moment of the universe. But... View Details
2018 The Big Bang Theory Wall Calendar (Day Dream)
by Day Dream (Author)
Spend the year with your favorite geniuses…. and friends, including Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, Penny, Amy, and Bernadette. View Details
Genesis and the Big Bang: The Discovery Of Harmony Between Modern Science And The Bible
by Gerald Schroeder (Author)
In this groundbreaking book, physicist Gerald Schroeder takes on skeptics from both sides of the cosmological debate, arguing that science and the Bible are not at odds concerning the origin of the universe. View Details
The Big Bang Theory: The Official Trivia Guide
by Adam Faberman (Author)
This completely authorized Big Bang Theory trivia and quiz book is filled with questions from every season, photos, hilarious quotes, and more, including excerpts from the Roommate Agreement and your chance to play ‘Emily or Cinnamon.’ It’s sure to provide hours of fun and test the knowledge of even the most dedicated fan.
The Big Bang Theory is one of the most popular sitcoms in the world and the funniest show on TV. It is beloved by critics and audiences alike for its quick wit, incredibly geeky but relatable characters, and its science and science fiction... View Details
The Big Bang Theory - Saison 5
Quick Shipping !!! New And Sealed !!! This Disc WILL NOT play on standard US DVD player. A multi-region PAL/NTSC DVD player is request to view it in USA/Canada. Please Review Description. View Details
The Big History Timeline Wallbook: Unfold the History of the Universe―from the Big Bang to the Present Day!
by Christopher Lloyd (Author), Andy Forshaw (Illustrator)
IMAGINE TAKING a trip through the history of everything from the beginning of the universe to the present day! Created in association with the American Museum of Natural History, this unique 'big history' wallbook includes a 6-foot fold-out timeline containing more than 1,000 pictures and captions that tell the story of the history of the world. The timeline is divided into 12 sections covering both natural history as well as the history of human civilizations in each of the world's continents so you can easily compare what was happening across the world at any given moment in time.... View Details
The Big Bang (GREAT IDEAS OF SCIENCE)
by Paul Fleisher (Author)
Explains how scientists' observations of the stars led to the development of the big bang theory, a theory of how our universe was formed. View Details
The Big Bang Theory Mad Libs
by Laura Marchesani (Author)
If you like science, Star Trek, comic books, and laughing, you'll love playing The Big Bang Theory Mad Libs! Featuring 21 stories based on the hit show, this collection of Mad Libs is sure to entertain the whole family. View Details