Cosmologists from Durham University, publishing their results in the prestigious international academic journal, Science, suggest that the formation of the first stars depends crucially on the nature of ‘dark matter’, the strange material that makes up most of the mass in the universe.
The discovery takes scientists a step further to determining the nature of dark matter, which remains a mystery since it was first discovered more than 70 years ago. It also suggests that some of the very first stars that ever formed can still be found in the Milky Way galaxy today.
Early structure formation in the Universe involves interaction between elusive particles known as ‘dark matter’. Even though little is known about their nature, evidence for the presence of dark matter is overwhelming, from observations of galaxies, to clusters of galaxies, to the Universe as a whole.
After the Big Bang, the universe was mostly ‘smooth’, with just small ripples in the matter density. These ripples grew larger due to the gravitational forces acting on the dark matter particles contained in them. Eventually, gas was pulled into the forming structures, leading to the formation of the very first stars, about 100 million years after the Big Bang.
For their research, the team from Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology carried out sophisticated computer simulations of the formation of these early stars with accepted scientific models of so-called ‘cold’ as well as ‘warm’ dark matter.
The computer model found that for slow moving ‘cold dark matter’ particles, the first stars formed in isolation, with just a single, larger mass star forming per developing spherical dark matter concentration.
In contrast, for faster-moving ‘warm dark matter’, a large number of stars of differing sizes formed at the same time in a big burst of star formation. The bursts occurred in long and thin filaments.
One of the researchers, Dr Liang Gao, who receives funding from the UK’s Science and Technologies Facilities Council, said: “These filaments would have been around 9000 light years long, which is about a quarter of the size of the Milky Way galaxy today. The very luminous star burst would have lit-up the dark universe in spectacular fashion.”
Stars forming in the cold dark matter are massive. The larger a star is, the shorter its life span, so these larger mass stars would not have survived until today. However the warm dark matter model predicts the formation of low mass stars as well as larger ones and the scientists say the low mass stars would survive until today.
The research paves the way for observational studies which could bring scientists closer to finding out more about the nature of dark matter. Co-researcher, Dr Tom Theuns, said: “A key question that astronomers often ask is ‘where are the descendants of the first stars today"’ The answer is that, if the dark matter is warm, some of these primordial stars should be lurking around our galaxy.”
The Durham University scientists also give new insights into the way that black holes could be formed. Most galaxies harbour in their centres monster black holes, some with masses more than a billion times the mass of the sun.
The team hypothesises that collisions between stars in the dense filament in the warm dark matter scenario lead to the formation of the seeds for such black holes.
Dr Theuns added: “Our results raise the exciting prospect of learning about the nature of dark matter from studying the oldest stars. Another tell-tale sign could be the gigantic black holes that live in centres of galaxies like the Milky Way. They could have formed during the collapse of the first filaments in a universe dominated by warm dark matter.”
Obstructing the ‘inner eye’
07.07.2017 | Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
Drone vs. truck deliveries: Which create less carbon pollution?
31.05.2017 | University of Washington
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy