Just after the Big Bang the universe was devoid of light. It took hundreds of millions of years from the point of singularity for the first star to be born.
Prior to that time, the cosmos was merely filled with massive clouds of gas that expanded throughout the universe. Those clouds became the birthplace of everything we understand today.
A recent discovery from a Brazilian-American team has shed light on what is believed to be an infant of the Milky Way, quite possibly the first star to ever form in our stellar neighbourhood. The star is named 2MASS J18082002–5104378, it is a sub-giant class star with a temperature that reaches 5440 Kelvin (a similar heat to our Sun).
The star is referred to as an “ultra metal-poor” star, which means that it contains a surprisingly low abundance of metals in it’s makeup. This is believed to be caused by the way stars formed in the early days of the Milky Way; early stars in our universe were made mostly of hydrogen and helium, when those stars decayed they enriched the universe with the necessary elements to build the stars and planets as we understand them today. These types of stars once existed en-mass in our universe, but they are becoming more and more rare as new stellar objects gain metals through more supernovae explosions over time.
Throughout the course of these star’s lifetimes iron was formed at the core of stars due to nuclear fusion. The star’s core would first burn hydrogen and form helium, the helium forms carbon and oxygen, which in turn results in the formation of iron. As the star ages it eventually collapses in on itself in a brilliant supernovae explosion and blasts bits of iron and uranium across the universe.
The team hopes to find more of these stars in the coming future with the 2018 build of the James Webb Space Telescope. This star will surely be a significant point of interest for early research at the facility.
Finding more of these “metal-poor” stars will help astronomers better understand the early formation of our universe, and specifically our little place in it, the Milky Way.
Image Credit: NASA/ESA/ESO/Wolfram Freudling (STECF)