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.”
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