Proof of Oxygen in a Faraway Galaxy Shows The Earliest Star Formation Ever Observed

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When Japanese astronomers at the Osaka Sangyo University detected a whiff of oxygen in a galaxy far away, they realized that the stars in there formed 250 million years after the Big Bang, which is a very short time in cosmic time.

The discovery could provide more information on how the early universe looked like.

Astronomers published their research on 16 May in the journal Nature. They found new information by looking at the most distant galaxy that was ever observed until now.

Traveling Back In Time

The universe was created nearly 13.8 billion years ago, after the Big Bang. The galaxy MACS1149-JD1 exists almost 550 million years after the Big Bang.

The light coming from MACS1149-JD1 had to travel 13.28 billion light years to reach Earth. This means that scientists are looking back in time.

The distance of the faraway galaxy was calculated using ground-based telescopes in Chile and infrared data from orbiting telescopes, to reconstruct the early history of MACS1149-JD1.

If astronomers discovered oxygen in MACS1149-JD1, it meant that inside the galaxy, stars have formed even earlier and died in the galaxy. That led them to the conclusion that MACS1149-JD1 formed almost 250 million years after the Big Bang. At that time, the universe was 2% of its current age.

Oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen will only form in the universe after stars first fusion and then die, spewing these elements into interstellar space.

The First Evidence to Show The Earliest Star Formation

Astronomer Takuya Hashimoto (Osaka Sangyo University, Japan) said:

“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.”

Astronomer Nicolas Laporte (University College London) adds that:

“With these observations, we are pushing back the limit of the observable universe and, therefore, we are coming closer to the cosmic dawn.”

Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.