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Astroboffins find most distant source of oxygen in the universe

Astroboffins find most distant source of oxygen in the universe

Galaxy MACS1149-JD1 is more than 13 billion light-years from Earth, but the optical telescope Very Large Telescope and a radio telescope called ALMA helped scientists to study it in more detail. These findings have been published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The most likely explanation for the presence of oxygen is that it was cooked up in earlier generations of suns. In 2016, a team led by Akio Inoue, co-author of the paper and an associate physics professor at Osaka Sangyo University, spotted signs 13.1 billion light years.

"This galaxy is seen at a time when the Universe was only 500 million years old and yet it already has a population of mature stars", explains Nicolas Laporte, a researcher at University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom and second author of the new paper.

The oxygen in MACS1149-JD1 by definition therefore has to reach back to a time earlier than it is being seen.

For a period after the Big Bang, there was no oxygen in the Universe; it was made by the combination procedures of the primary stars and afterward discharged when these stars kicked the bucket.

In this composite image, a galaxy cluster observed by the Hubble Space Telescope is shown along with a faint member (inset) known as MACS1149-JD1 that was observed by the ALMA instrument. But for the galaxy to have enough oxygen to be visible, it must have been creating stars for around 250 million years before that, making it one of the earliest known star-producing galaxies. While this ALMA study has indirectly dated that time to 250 million years after the Big Bang, the earliest direct detection was announced earlier this year, in the form of an ionized hydrogen signature hailing from when our universe was a mere 180 million years old. Both teams merged efforts to achieve this new record.

In order to discover when did the star formation occurred, scientists reconstructed the earlier history of MACS1149-JD1 using infrared data taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope. The MACS1149-JD1 observation shows galaxies must have existed before any that are now detectable.

By establishing the age of MACS1149-JD1, the team has effectively demonstrated the existence of early galaxies to times earlier than those where we can now directly detect them. With MACS1149-JD1, we have managed to probe history beyond the limits of when we can actually detect galaxies with current facilities. The astrophysicist added, "Most models suggest star formation begins gradually, not in such a single burst of activity". "With these new observations of MACS1149-JD1 we are getting closer to directly witnessing the birth of starlight". But the precision of that distance measurement with is significantly lower than that of MACS1149-JD1 which is based on the use of two independent emission lines from atoms of hydrogen and oxygen.

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