Tag Archives: universe

Profile of John Kovac, whose team appears to have confirmed that the universe underwent an enormous growth spurt during the first tiny fraction of a second of its existence

Profile of John Kovac, whose team appears to have confirmed that the universe underwent an enormous growth spurt during the first tiny fraction of a second of its existence

(SCOOP) M Dwarfs Particularly Promising for Life-hosting Planets [Nature]

A pair of just-released statistical studies of the universe suggest numerous habitable planets exist in our Galaxy, with one study suggesting a life-friendly planet within 20 light years of our Solar System. From my Nature article, Small stars host droves of life-friendly worlds, that broke news of this latter study, which used data from NASA’s Kepler telescope

Credit: Dana Berry/NASA Kepler Mission
Credit: Dana Berry/NASA Kepler Mission

Continue reading (SCOOP) M Dwarfs Particularly Promising for Life-hosting Planets [Nature]

(SCOOP) Long-studied Star Now Considered Almost as Old as Universe [Nature]

For more than a century, the star HD 140283 has been studied, but only now has its age been estimated: within hundreds of millions of years of the age of the Universe. Delivering a scoop, my Nature article, Nearby star is almost as old as the Universe, details this important new conclusion:

The team then exploited the fact that HD 140283 is in a phase of its life cycle in which it is exhausting the hydrogen at its core. In this phase, the star’s slowly dimming luminosity is a highly sensitive indicator of its age, says Bond. His team calculates that the star is 13.9 billion years old, give or take 700 million years. Taking into account that experimental error, the age does not conflict with the age of the Universe, 13.77 billion years.

[…]

The very first generation of stars coalesced from primordial gas, which did not contain appreciable amounts of elements heavier than helium, he notes. That means that as old as HD 140283 is, its chemical composition — which includes a low but non-zero abundance of heavy elements — shows that the star must have formed after the first stellar generation.

Conditions for making the second generation of stars, then, “must have been in place very early”, says Bromm. The very first stars are usually thought to have coalesced a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, he notes. Massive and short lived, they died after only a few million years — exploding in supernovae that heated surrounding gas and seeded it with heavier elements.

The Nature article contains more information about the research and characteristics of early stars.

Finding Record-Old Galaxies at the Limits of Hubble Space Telescope [Nature]

Recent infrared images taken from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Camera 3 are the deepest taken of the Universe, and they reveal several galaxies, including one that is the most distant object we’ve ever found. This galaxy is 13.29 billion light years (4.1 billion parsecs) from Earth and were first visible when the Universe was only 450 million years old (only 4 percent of what it is now). From my recent article in Nature, Galaxy found at record-breaking distance:

Source: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (CALTECH), and the HUDF 2012 Team
Source: NASA, ESA, R. Ellis (CALTECH), and the HUDF 2012 Team

Continue reading Finding Record-Old Galaxies at the Limits of Hubble Space Telescope [Nature]

Where’s the Dark Matter? New Study Finds None Near the Solar System [Nature]

Survey finds no hint of dark matter near Solar System

In the largest survey of its kind to date, astronomers scouring the space around the Solar System for signs of dark matter — the hypothetical material believed to account for more than 80% of the mass in the Universe — have come up empty-handed.

If confirmed, the surprising result would upend a long-established consensus, researchers not involved in the study say.  For decades, cosmic theories have relied on dark matter — which exerts gravitational pull but emits no light — to be the hidden scaffolding that explains how structure arose in the Universe, how galaxies formed and how the rapidly spinning Milky Way manages to keep from flying apart. Without dark matter, theorists say, the visible material in the Universe, such as stars and gas, would not have the heft to do the job alone.

The rest of the article explains how the research was conducted and what the scientific community thinks of the finding.

Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer
Credit: ESO/H.H.Heyer