Distant galaxy hints at universe's earliest stars

Distant galaxy hints at universe's earliest stars

Light emitted by MACS1149-JD1 traveled 13.28 billon light years before reaching Earth. Previously, astronomers due to limitations in technology only researched lights in the MACS1149-JD1, but with the help of high-precision telescopes, they were able to prove that the most remote from Earth, the galaxy, there are traces of oxygen. This means that scientists are looking back in time.

The universe's first stars may have formed a mere 250 million years after the big bang-hundreds of millions of years earlier than thought, according to a new study.

What made this discovery so incredible is that the signal is believed to have been emitted 13.3bn years ago making it not only the most distant oxygen ever detected, but shows stars were forming as little as 250m years after the Big Bang. Within the galaxy, the team was surprised to discover faint signals of ionized oxygen that were emitted nearly 13.3 billion years ago (or 500 million years after the Big Bang).

In addition, ALMA also detected a weaker signal of hydrogen emission was also detected by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT). However, numerous heavier elements we take for granted today (such as carbon and oxygen) did not exist before the first stars.

The presence of oxygen is important because it must have come from an even older generation of stars that have completed their life cycle.

Dr Nicolas Laporte, from University College London, who co-led the team, said: '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.

The detection of oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 was particularly instructive.

Scientists calculated that the galaxy's stars must have formed 250 million years earlier. This makes MACS1149-JD1 the most distant galaxy with a precise distance measurement.

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. When ALMA's antennas (which range from 7 to 12 meters in diameter) are configured in different ways, the array is capable of zooming in on some of the most distant cosmic objects in the universe, as well as capturing images that are clearer than those produced by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Co-author Professor Richard Ellis, also from UCL, said: 'Determining when cosmic dawn occurred is akin to the Holy Grail of cosmology and galaxy formation.

'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".

"With this discovery we managed to reach the earliest phase of cosmic star formation history", Dr. Hashimoto said.

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