When it comes to observing our early Universe, astronomers assumed we were simply in the dark. We’re talking about a time when the Cosmos was nothing more than a vast cloud of hydrogen gas and long before any “lights” had turned on.
Now, scientists may have discovered a new way to see the very first stars – stars born when the Universe was only 1% of its present age. This light comes in the form of a gamma-ray burst and could have signaled the death of a massive star and the formation of a primal black hole.
This new research was presented by Professor Rennan Barkana from Tel Aviv University at a conference organized by Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool and sponsored by the Royal Astronomical Society and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, bringing together nearly a hundred astrophysicists from eighteen countries. Their aim was to discuss the latest results on the most distant and powerful explosions in the Universe, gamma-ray bursts.
These exciting new findings employ computer modeling to show that predicted differences in speed of gas and dark matter are responsible for the very first stars – stars which “clumped together” to form a cosmic web.“The discovery of these web-like structures now makes it feasible for radio astronomers to detect the 21-cm wavelength light from the first stars when the universe was only 200 million years old and still emerging from its dark ages”, said Dr. Barkana.
Professor Carole Mundell, from LJMU’s Astrophysics Research Institute, who is the lead organizer of the conference said, “This result is very exciting because it opens a new window on an era that has always been considered challenging for observers.”
LJMU scientists from the Astrophysics Research Institute are the leaders in the area of gamma-ray research. Thanks to the robotic Liverpool Telescope on the Canary island of La Palma, astronomers have a powerful method to quickly detect and react to notifications from gamma-ray detector satellites, such as NASA’s Swift, and catch the optical counterpart and fading afterglow of the explosion.
“This idea is made more effective by a recent insight that dark matter and ordinary matter (gas) move at different velocities in the early universe.” explains Professor Barkana. “The effect of this velocity difference has been studied over the last two years with analytical models and numerical simulations. In our paper we produce the first simulated 3-D maps of the distribution of the first stars and show that the relative velocity effect significantly enhances large-scale fluctuations.”
Professor Carole Mundell said: “Since the launch of NASA’s Swift satellite in 2004, over 700 new gamma-ray bursts have been detected out to the edges of the observable universe. Delegates will present the state-of-the-art in our understanding of black holes and their environments. We have an exciting agenda covering topics such as the very first stars in the universe, the nature of space-time and the detection of exotic particles.”
Original Story Source: RAS News Release.