Tracing Chemical Elements in the First Stars
A simulation of the first stars in the universe, showing how a nearby gas cloud might have become enriched with heavy elements. Courtesy Swinburne University.
I continue to be fascinated by the existence of the first stars in the universe. What were they like? How long did they live? How can we spot evidence of them? These are all questions astronomers who study the universe continue to ask and try to answer.
At this meeting, we heard from astronomers who are searching out evidence of those first stellar objects. They’re not exactly easy to spot. You can’t really just stare hard across more than 13 billion light-years and see these things. They’re too dim, too far away, and hidden behind clouds of gas and dust. It seems like that would be the kiss of death for learning anything about those stars, but instead, astronomers found a way to turn that “bug” into a feature by performing spectroscopy on the cloud (studying the characteristics of star light after it passed through the cloud).
Neil Crighton and Professor Michael Murphy from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, and Associate Professor John O’Meara from Saint ...