A team of scientists has discovered evidence of some of the earliest stars in the universe, with the help of the Very Large Telescope in Chile.
The universe was very likely created by what scientists call the Big Bang. As a result of this giant explosion, hydrogen, helium, and lithium gases were released into space in large quantities, and they started coalescing into stars. According to a report from CNET, a theoretical class of stars might have used these resources to generate light in the shadows of the early universe.
These stars were known as Population III stars, and are thought to represent a turning point in the growth of the universe. The stars took basic gases and began to turn them into heavier elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen.
There were definitely earlier generations of these stars, though they have never actually been seen. Astronomers believe that these first generation stars were massive, hot, bright, and burned out faster than we were able to observe – likely just 2 million years after they were formed.
According to a new study, we may have just discovered solid evidence that these stars actually existed. A team led by astrophysicist David Sobral from Portugal discovered evidence of many clusters of population III stars in a galaxy called CR7 almost 13.02 billion light years away – formed just 800 million years following the Big Bang.
Using the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, along with the Subaru Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, the team was able to find a number of bright, yet relatively new galaxies while conducting a broad survey of the edges of the universe.
CR7 was the brightest galaxy they had witnessed this early on in the universe – it was nearly three times brighter than the previous record-holder. Scientists also found strong ionized helium, and no sign of heavy elements in CR7– both characteristics of Population III stars.
The study offers some amazing insights into the formation of the universe. The team found groups of both blue and red stars, which means that these early galaxies may have formed in waves. Astronomers will keep looking for clusters of Population III stars next to regular stars throughout the universe, where they could be hiding just about anywhere.