Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers discover oldest star: Formed shortly after the Big Bang 13. 7 billion years ago

Date:
February 9, 2014
Source:
The Australian National University
Summary:
A team of astronomers has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe, which formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. The discovery has allowed astronomers for the first time to study the chemistry of the first stars, giving scientists a clearer idea of what the Universe was like in its infancy.

Dr. Stefan Keller with the SkyMapper telescope.
Credit: Image courtesy of The Australian National University

A team led by astronomers at The Australian National University has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe, which formed shortly after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

The discovery has allowed astronomers for the first time to study the chemistry of the first stars, giving scientists a clearer idea of what the Universe was like in its infancy.

"This is the first time that we've been able to unambiguously say that we've found the chemical fingerprint of a first star," said lead researcher, Dr Stefan Keller of the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"This is one of the first steps in understanding what those first stars were like. What this star has enabled us to do is record the fingerprint of those first stars."

The star was discovered using the ANU SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring Observatory, which is searching for ancient stars as it conducts a five-year project to produce the first digital map the southern sky.

The ancient star is around 6,000 light years from Earth, which Dr Keller says is relatively close in astronomical terms. It is one of the 60 million stars photographed by SkyMapper in its first year.

"The stars we are finding number one in a million," says team member Professor Mike Bessell, who worked with Keller on the research.

"Finding such needles in a haystack is possible thanks to the ANU SkyMapper telescope that is unique in its ability to find stars with low iron from their colour."

Dr Keller and Professor Bessell confirmed the discovery using the Magellan telescope in Chile.

The composition of the newly discovered star shows it formed in the wake of a primordial star, which had a mass 60 times that of our Sun.

"To make a star like our Sun, you take the basic ingredients of hydrogen and helium from the Big Bang and add an enormous amount of iron -- the equivalent of about 1,000 times the Earth's mass," Dr Keller says.

"To make this ancient star, you need no more than an Australia-sized asteroid of iron and lots of carbon. It's a very different recipe that tells us a lot about the nature of the first stars and how they died."

Dr Keller says it was previously thought that primordial stars died in extremely violent explosions which polluted huge volumes of space with iron. But the ancient star shows signs of pollution with lighter elements such as carbon and magnesium, and no sign of pollution with iron.

"This indicates the primordial star's supernova explosion was of surprisingly low energy. Although sufficient to disintegrate the primordial star, almost all of the heavy elements such as iron, were consumed by a black hole that formed at the heart of the explosion," he says.

The result may resolve a long-standing discrepancy between observations and predictions of the Big Bang.

The discovery was published in the latest edition of the journal Nature.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Australian National University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. S. C. Keller, M. S. Bessell, A. Frebel, A. R. Casey, M. Asplund, H. R. Jacobson, K. Lind, J. E. Norris, D. Yong, A. Heger, Z. Magic, G. S. Da Costa, B. P. Schmidt, P. Tisserand. A single low-energy, iron-poor supernova as the source of metals in the star SMSS J031300.36−670839.3. Nature, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nature12990

Cite This Page:

The Australian National University. "Astronomers discover oldest star: Formed shortly after the Big Bang 13. 7 billion years ago." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140209200836.htm>.
The Australian National University. (2014, February 9). Astronomers discover oldest star: Formed shortly after the Big Bang 13. 7 billion years ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140209200836.htm
The Australian National University. "Astronomers discover oldest star: Formed shortly after the Big Bang 13. 7 billion years ago." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140209200836.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

New Study Says The Moon Was Deformed Early In Its History

Newsy (July 31, 2014) Scientists say when the moon was young, it was deformed by the Earth's gravitational pull, which gave it a lemon-like shape. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

Supply Ship Takes Off for International Space Station

AFP (July 30, 2014) The European Space Agency's fifth Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV-5) is takes off to the International Space Station on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana. Duration: 00:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

Raw: Rocket Launches Into Space With Cargo Ship

AP (July 30, 2014) Arianespace launched a rocket Tuesday from French Guiana carrying a robotic cargo ship to deliver provisions to the International Space Station. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

In Virginia, the Rise of a New Space Coast

AP (July 30, 2014) Every summer, tourists make the pilgrimage to Chincoteague Island, Va. to see wild ponies cross the Assateague Channel. But, it's the rockets sending to supplies to the International Space Station that are making this a year-round destination. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins