The very first stars that formed early in the history of the universe were smaller than the massive giants implied by the results of a NASA research satellite, but still larger than the typical stars found in our galaxy today, according to a research team led by the University of Chicagos Jason Tumlinson.
"We have managed to reconcile within a single theory the two very different leading indicators of the nature of the first stars," said Tumlinson, the Edwin Hubble Scientist in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Tumlinson will present the theory June 1 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Denver. His co-authors are the University of Colorados Aparna Venkatesan and J. Michael Shull.
No telescope is powerful enough yet to see the first stars, but astronomers can guess at their existence based on the stellar clues they leave behind. In 2001 and 2002, NASAs Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe (WMAP) looked at the oldest light in the universe left over from the big bang, the cosmic microwave background, and found one such clue in the form of ionized (electrically charged) gas floating between the galaxies. WMAP showed that this intergalactic gas was ionized approximately 200 million years after the big bang.
Steve Koppes | EurekAlert!
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