Discovery of distant galaxy opens door to 'uncharted period of cosmic history'

Астрономы нашли древнейший кислород во Вселенной

The light coming from MACS1149-JD1 had to travel 13.28 billion light years to reach Earth.

"These results demonstrate the ability of ALMA as a tool to measure the redshift of distant galaxies", says Richard Bouwens, of the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, in the paper issued in the Nature journal.

"The mature stellar population in MACS1149-JD1 implies that stars were forming back to even earlier times, beyond what we can now see with our telescopes", said Nicolas Laporte, a researcher at University College London/Université de Toulouse and a member of the research team, in a statement.

Stars in a galaxy far, far away formed just 250 million years after the birth of the universe - earlier than any others known, British-led astronomers have found.

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.

The current theory on the beginning of the universe maintains that an event called the Big Bang spurred the emergence of everything that exists in space and on Earth.

If astronomers discovered oxygen in MACS1149-JD1, it meant that inside the galaxy, stars have formed even earlier and died in the galaxy.


Oxygen is only created in stars and then released into the gas clouds in galaxies when those stars die.

The Japanese researchers arrived at that red shift measurement using the spectral lines of ionised oxygen instead of using ionised carbon, as is normally done in examining distant objects. "We are therefore able to use this galaxy to probe into an earlier, completely uncharted period of cosmic history".

Their research, published on Wednesday, provides insight into star formation in perhaps the most distant galaxy ever observed.

"This galaxy is seen at a time when the universe was only 500m years old and yet it already has a population of mature stars", said Nicolas Laporte, a researcher at University College London in the United Kingdom and second author of the new paper.

The maturity of the stars seen in MACS1149-JD1 raises the question of when the very first galaxies emerged from the total darkness, an epoch of astronomers romantically term "cosmic dawn". Whether MACS1149-JD1 is just an outlier or the tip of an iceberg will have to wait for more observations. "We have for the first time observed the very early stage of star formation in the universe", said astronomer Takuya Hashimoto of Osaka Sangyo University in Japan. There is renewed optimism we are getting closer and closer to witnessing directly the birth of starlight. "Since we are all made of a 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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