Found: Debris of First Stars

Sep 30, 2022 | Cosmology, Daily Space, Stars

Found: Debris of First Stars
IMAGE: This artist’s impression shows a field of Population III stars as they would have appeared a mere 100 million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers may have discovered the first signs of their ancient chemical remains in the clouds surrounding one of the most distant quasars ever detected. CREDIT: NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine

I’m not sure I actually have the language to express how exciting this next story is, but I’m going to try. According to Carl Sagan: If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

Well, one of the early steps in making that universe is making stars. We have been searching for evidence of those first stars from the moment we realized our universe had a time=0. And we have been failing to find them for about a century.

That changes today. A team led by Yuzuru Yoshii has identified a supernova remnant that is chemically consistent with its forming when a 150–300 solar mass star exploded. That first generation star was made with only the atoms made during the Big Bang.

This nebula’s gas was found in the outskirts of a distant bright galaxy. The light we are seeing comes from when the universe was less than a billion years old. And what we see so far matches the models we hoped were right.

This is just one object, but it shows us, finally, that these things can be found, and now, I’m sure, this team and others will be looking for more.

More Information

NOIRLab press release

Potential Signature of Population III Pair-instability Supernova Ejecta in the BLR Gas of the Most Distant Quasar at z = 7.54,” Yuzuru Yoshii et al., 2022 September 28, The Astrophysical Journal

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