Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers find dust around a primitive star, shedding new light on universe's origins

16.01.2009
Astronomers have found evidence to suggest that during the early stages of the Universe, cosmic dust - the building block for the formation of planets and life throughout the cosmos - was partially created by the gradual death of carbon stars, dispelling theories that it comes solely from stars that have exploded.

They observed dust forming around a dying star in a nearby galaxy, similar to the primitive galaxies that formed soon after the big bang, giving them a fascinating glimpse back in time.

The research, which was funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) through a grant to Manchester University, is reported in the Jan. 16 issue of the journal Science. The study is based on observations with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and was carried out by an international team of astronomers.

Stars produce dust – smoke-like particles rich with carbon or oxygen - as they die. But less is known about how and what kind of dust was created in the first galaxies.

"All the elements heavier than helium were made after the Big Bang in successive generations of stars", explained team leader Albert Zijlstra from The University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. "We came up with the idea of looking at nearby galaxies poor in heavier elements to get a close-up view of how stars live and die in conditions similar to those in the first galaxies."

Scientists have long debated where dust in the early Universe comes from and the most popular theory has been that supernova explosions of massive stars is the only source. Up until now, dust producing carbon stars like the one observed were not thought to have existed in early galaxies.

Gregory Sloan, from Cornell University, said “We haven't seen carbon-rich dust in this primitive an environment before. What this tells us is that carbon stars could have been pumping out dust soon after the first galaxies were born”.

The dust was discovered around the carbon star MAG 29, located 280,000 light years away in a small nearby galaxy called the Sculptor Dwarf. Stars more massive than the Sun end their lives as carbon stars. In our galaxy, carbon stars are a rich source of dust.

The Sculptor Dwarf contains only 4 percent of the carbon and other heavy elements in our own galaxy, making it similar to primitive galaxies seen at the edge of the universe. Those galaxies emitted the light that we now see soon after they and the universe formed.

"While everyone is focused on the questions of how much and what kind of dust supernovae make, they may not have appreciated that carbon stars can make at least some of the dust we are seeing," Sloan said. "The more we can understand the quantity and composition of the dust, the better we can understand how stars and galaxies evolve, both in the early universe and right next door."

"Observing stars such as MAG 29 is not unlike using a time machine", Sloan added, "in which astronomers can catch glimpses of what the universe looked like billions of years ago."

"MAG 29 is exceptionally rich in hydrocarbons, similar to those that are vital components in the chemistry that eventually led to the appearance of life on earth" added Mikako Matsuura from the National University of Japan.

The study also included other scientists in the UK, USA, Japan, Australia and Belgium. It is part of a project led by Albert Zijlstra at the University of Manchester's Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics.

Julia Short | alfa
Further information:
http://www.stfc.ac.uk

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Computer model predicts how fracturing metallic glass releases energy at the atomic level
20.07.2018 | American Institute of Physics

nachricht What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
18.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>