Friday, February 04, 2011

Are the first stars in the universe still around?

It has been a long standing prevailing view that the very first stars that lit the early universe had all burned out due in part to their immense size. A new study seems to contradict this position.

It now seems quite possible that some of the universe’s first stars may still be shining in the Milky Way 13 billion years after being formed.

A new series of simulations at the University of Heidelberg in Germany seem to indicate that gases in the early universe could have produced many small stars instead of a few very large ones. It is also speculated that in these tightly packed collection of small stars, a few would have been ejected due in part to gravity dynamics. If this happened then the smaller cooler stars could have miserly with their fuel and instead of burning up in a few million years, still be going to the present day.

These results are far from being widely accepted in the astrophysical community. Many researchers say they have several qualms about those conclusions.

From the ScienceNews article
  • If any of the first stars did survive until today, their brightness wouldn’t require an exceptionally large telescope to image them, says Simon White of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics,... But making a positive ID won’t be easy, he adds. Only high-resolution spectra could distinguish primordial stars, which would contain only hydrogen and helium, from slightly younger stars containing trace amounts of heavier elements, he notes.
read complete ScienceNews article here

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