Big bang

The very first structures of the cosmos Astrophysics

The very first structures of the cosmos

In one of my newest books astronomers are trying to use a solar gravitational lens to look at the beginning of the universe. Whether they succeed, I will not reveal here. But physicists at the Universities of Göttingen and Auckland (New Zealand) have now determined what they would see with the help of greatly improved computer simulations. The scientists discovered that a complex network of structures can form in the first trillionth of a second after the Big Bang. But these are not just any random structures: the behavior of these objects already mimics the distribution of galaxies in…
Were the first black holes born in the form of baby universes? Astrophysics

Were the first black holes born in the form of baby universes?

Shortly after the Big Bang, the universe was still impenetrable. Its density was so high that a variation of only 50 percent - a coffee bean in a cake batter - would have been enough to produce a black hole immediately. The density was at least variable enough to let grow whole galaxies from the differences later. However, there seem to have been no "coffee beans" at that time - this is revealed today by the rather uniform cosmic background radiation. Nevertheless, so-called promordial black holes could have been formed at that time, just on other ways. They could…
The first star explosions were gigantic – and asymmetrical Astrophysics

The first star explosions were gigantic – and asymmetrical

After a star with significantly more mass than the Sun has consumed all its fuel, it decays into a massive firework display, a supernova. In today’s universe, that is not a very common sight, because the greatest percentage of stars is made up of red dwarfs, which end their lives not nearly so spectacularly. Our Sun is also not destined to turn into a supernova. It will grow into a red giant and then, at the end, only a harmless white dwarf will remain. In the early universe, however, things were much different. At that time, there were neither…
Airborne telescope detects helium hydride ion in space Astrophysics

Airborne telescope detects helium hydride ion in space

The helium hydride ion HeH+ is a puzzle in and of itself. As a noble gas, helium does not easily bond with other elements. And in the early universe, the selection of elements was much smaller than it is today: the only elements were hydrogen (H), helium (He), and traces of lithium, and only in ionized form, that is, without electrons, which form the basis for chemical bonds. After the big bang, the universe had to cool down first, for a period of approximately 300,000 years, before chemistry could begin. At a temperature of about 3700 degrees Celsius, the…
Star formation detected in the baby universe Space

Star formation detected in the baby universe

At first glance, MACS1149-JD1 is just a small dot of light. On second look, analyses by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) show that it is evidence for very early star formation in the universe. The light from MACS1149-JD1 has taken up to 13.3 billion years to reach us. The galaxy is thus only 550 million years old. (more…)