Monday, July 6, 2015

A First Sighting of the Earliest Stars of Creation

An artist’s impression of CR7, a very distant galaxy three times brighter than any other known galaxy from this period.

From Cosmos Magazine (July 6, 2015):

The Universe began with a brilliant flash but soon descended into darkness – until finally, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, the first stars flickered into life.

Astronomers believe they have now glimpsed some survivors from this pioneering generation of stars. These ancient ancestors of modern stars were monsters, hundreds of times more massive than our Sun and millions of times as luminous. Their short, intense lives ended in giant supernova explosions that enriched the cosmos with the first elements that were heavier than helium such as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen – the stuff of planets and ultimately of life.

Many astronomers thought we’d never glimpse these ancient ‘population III’ (or pop-III) stars. But tantalising evidence for these ancestral stars now comes from a newly discovered galaxy, 12.9 billion years old and by far the brightest from its epoch ever seen.