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Wed Dec 26, 2018, 02:38 AM

Researchers find a "fossil" cloud made up of the original star stuff

25 December 2018

In this simulation of galaxies and gas in the universe, rare pockets of pristine gas lurk in
filaments (blue) connecting galaxies (orange). The pockets have somehow remained pristine,
not “polluted” by heavy elements created during supernova blasts, depicted here as circular
shock waves around some of the orange points. Image: TNG Collaboration

A rare fossil relic of the Big Bang, a vast, pristine cloud of gas made up of material generated during the sudden birth of the cosmos, has been detected, the third such relic discovered to date. The discovery may shed new light on how the first galaxies formed and evolved.

“Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste heavy elements from exploding stars,” said doctoral student Fred Robert at Swinburne University of Technology. “But this particular cloud seems pristine, unpolluted by stars even 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

“If it has any heavy elements at all, it must be less than ten-thousandth of the proportion we see in our Sun. This is extremely low. The most compelling explanation is that it’s a true relic of the Big Bang.”

Robert, Swinburne astronomy professor Michael Murphy and a team of researchers outline their findings in a paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.


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