Space signals shine light on first stars

This image provided by the National Science Foundation shows a rendering of how the first stars in the universe might have looked. Scientists have detected a signal from 180 million years after the Big Bang when the earliest stars began glowing

After all, it was generated an extremely long way away, an extremely long time ago.

"So far we detected dark matter only through its gravitational effect on visible matter (stars and gas). Telescopes basically cannot get pictures so ancient and distant stars, but radio waves, generated at the time of their "awakening", will help us to know when it happened", said Bowman. "These researchers with their small radio antenna in the desert have seen beyond the most powerful space telescopes, opening a new window to the primitive universe".

"There is a great technical challenge to making this detection", said Dr. Peter Kurczynski, program director from National Science Foundation.

The researchers also claimed that the gas in the Universe was surely significantly colder than expected.

In a separate paper published simultaneously in Nature, Rennan Barkana, an astrophysicist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, argues that since current known astrophysical phenomena are not likely to account for either of these temperature discrepancies, the best explanation is that dark matter interacted with the atoms to cool them down.

A timeline of the universe, updated with results from today's study.

"Judd's experiment has just managed to detect this signal - that's been the Holy Grail of scientists studying this spectrum for decades", says Antony Schinckel, the man leading the telescope's construction.

Astronomers theorized that when the Universe has born the physics laws in the primordial Universe were not at all as we now know.

Space signals shine light on first stars

BARKANA: Then it hit me that there's only one candidate for some component of the universe that can actually be even colder, and that's dark matter.

After weeding out loud and close signals, the team did, in fact, find what they were looking for-a dip in the wavelength that suggested the Cosmic Dawn occurred about 180 million years after the Big Bang. The first stars were born. The surrounding hydrogen atoms then became "excited", according to the study, and began to absorb the radiation from the CMB.

Astronomers discovered evidence of the first light of some of the first stars.

Further research using another instrument will now need to be carried out to confirm this team's detection "We worked very hard over the last two years to validate the detection, but having another group confirm it independently is a critical part of the scientific process", said Bowman. It was predicted to lie smack dab in the middle of the FM radio waves, which means terrestrial broadcasts and other natural signals could easily overwhelm the faint dip. "What's happening in this period is that some of the radiation from the very first stars is starting to allow hydrogen to be seen".

British expert Professor Carole Haswell, head of astronomy at the Open University, said: "This is a very exciting result".

While ordinary matter has been heating up in the 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, dark matter has been cooling down. Through a series of NSF grants beginning in 2009, the researchers built the instrument, honed calibration methods, and developed statistical techniques for refining signal data. Most researchers think it's made up of as-yet-undiscovered particles, hypothesized specks such as axions or weakly interacting massive particles.

The problem is that cooling the gas requires dark matter to interact with it, and dark matter as now understood doesn't do much interacting with anything. The signal they detected was twice as intense as they had predicted, suggesting that either the hydrogen gas pervading the early universe was significantly colder than expected, or background radiation levels were significantly hotter than light from the cosmic microwave background, the radiation left over from the Big Bang that formed the universe.

Finding this fingerprint in the universe's afterglow was easier said than done.

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