Astronomers using the powerful twin-optic telescope at W. M. Keck Observatory at Maunakea, Hawaii, have used the light of a quasar to discover a relic gas cloud in the distant universe. They call it a "fossil" from the earliest times of our universe. How do they know it's a young cloud? The cloud consists mainly of the elements born in Big Bang, hydrogen and helium. It lacks the heavier elements born inside stars and is released to the universe via supernovae explosions. Astronomers Fred Robert and Michael Murphy at Swinburne University of Technology made the discovery. Robert commented in a statement:
Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste from explosive stars. But this 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 1 / 10,000th of the proportion we see in our sun. This is extremely low; The most convincing explanation is that it is a true relic of the Big Bang.
Robert and Murphy's results have been approved for publication in the peer-reviewed journal Monthly announcements from the Royal Astronomical Society (repression available here).
These astronomers used two of Keck Observatory instruments – Echellette Spectrograph and Imager (ESI) and High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) – to observe the spectrum of a quasar behind gas clouds. The quasi-labeled PSS1723 + 2243 – emits a bright glow from material that falls into a supermassive black hole, giving a light source to which these astronomers said:
… the spectral shades of the liquid in gas clouds can be seen.
We directed quasars where former researchers had only seen shadows from hydrogen and not from heavy elements in low-quality spectra. This allowed us to discover a rare fossil quickly with the precious time at the Keck Observatory's twin telescope.
Only two other Big Bang fossils are known. These two clouds were discovered in 2011 by Michele Fumagalli from Durham University, John O & # 39; Meara, recently named the new chief researcher at Keck Observatory and J. Xavier Prochaska at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Both Fumagalli and O & # 39; Meara are co-authors of the new research. O & # 39; Meara said:
The first two were serendipitic discoveries, and we thought they were the top of the iceberg. But no one has discovered anything like this – they are clearly very rare and difficult to see. It's great to finally discover one systematically.
It is now possible to investigate for these fossil relics in the Big Bang. It will tell us exactly how rare they are and help us understand how some gas formed stars and galaxies in the early universe, and why some did not.
Bottom line: Astronomers used the light from a distant quasar to discover a cloud made mainly of elements released in the storm, lacking the heavier elements made within the stars. They call this cloud a "fossil" of the Big Bang.
Source: Explore the origin of a new, apparently metal-free gas cloud at z = 4.4
Via WM Keck Observatory
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