How the first stars formed from this dust and gas has been a burning question for years, but a state-of-the-art computer simulation now offers the most detailed picture yet of how these first stars in the universe came into existence, researchers say.
These findings will be published by the journal Science on Friday, 1 August. Science is the journal of AAAS, the nonprofit science society.
The composition of the early universe was quite different from that of today, and the physics that governed the early universe were also somewhat simpler. Dr. Naoki Yoshida and colleagues in Japan and the U.S. incorporated these conditions of the early universe, sometimes referred to as the "cosmic dark ages," to simulate the formation of an astronomical object that would eventually shine its light into this darkness.
The result is a detailed description of the formation of a protostar -- the early stage of a massive primordial star of our universe -- and the researchers' computer simulation, which has been called a "cosmic Rosetta Stone," sets the bar for further investigation into the star formation process. The question of how the first stars evolved is so important because their formations and eventual explosions provided the seeds for subsequent stars to come into being.
According to their simulation, gravity acted on minute density variations in matter, gases, and the mysterious "dark matter" of the universe after the Big Bang in order to form this early stage of a star -- a protostar with a mass of just one percent of our sun. The simulation reveals how pre-stellar gases would have actually evolved under the simpler physics of the early universe to form this protostar. Dr. Yoshida's simulation also shows that the protostar would likely evolve into a massive star capable of synthesizing heavy elements, not just in later generations of stars, but soon after the Big Bang.
"This general picture of star formation, and the ability to compare how stellar objects form in different time periods and regions of the universe, will eventually allow investigation into the origins of life and planets," said Lars Hernquist, a Professor of Astronomy at Harvard University and a co-author of this latest report. "The abundance of elements in the universe has increased as stars have accumulated," he says, "and the formation and destruction of stars continues to spread these elements further across the universe. So when you think about it, all of the elements in our bodies originally formed from nuclear reactions in the centers of stars, long ago."
Their simulation of the birth of a protostar in the early universe signifies a key step toward the ambitious goal of piecing together the formation of an entire primordial star and of predicting the mass and properties of these first stars of the universe. More powerful computers, more physical data, and an even larger range will be needed for further calculations and simulations, but these researchers hope to eventually extend this simulation to the point of nuclear reaction initiation -- when a stellar object becomes a true star.
"Dr. Yoshida has taken the study of primordial star formation to a new level with this simulation, but it still gets us only to the halfway point towards our final goal. It is like laying the foundation of a skyscraper," said Volker Bromm, Assistant Professor of Astronomy at the University of Texas, Austin and the author of a companion article. "We must continue our studies in this area to understand how the initially tiny protostar grows, layer by layer, to eventually form a massive star. But here, the physics become much more complicated and even more computational resources are needed."
Natasha Pinol | EurekAlert!
New NASA study improves search for habitable worlds
20.10.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Physics boosts artificial intelligence methods
19.10.2017 | California Institute of Technology
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
20.10.2017 | Information Technology
20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research