It appears that “digging” for “fossils” is something that can be also done in space. Scientists discovered that signatures from the first stars in the universe still exist in space, despite the fact that they are long gone. More than that, a team of researchers believes that they found one.
Finding fossils in space
The discovery was made by researchers from the Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. They found an untouched gas cloud, and it appears that it is unaffected by heavy elements. Scientists believe that this is a Big Bang fossil.
When stars explode they leave behind waste heavy materials. They affect gas clouds and this is the reason why gas clouds murky with this material are often found. However, discovering a “clean” gas cloud means that it could have existed since the beginning of the universe.
“This discovery – a seemingly pristine cloud – is really important,” said Murphy. “We need to know whether such clouds can last billions of years without being polluted by multiple generations of stars.”
This is not the first time a pristine gas cloud has been discovered, but this is the first time the discovery is intentional. This time, scientists are actively searching for gas clouds.
“Now we’ve proven that we can systematically find such fossils, we really have a chance of knowing how rare or common they are,” said Murphy. “That’s crucial for testing our understanding of how the first galaxies formed.”
Even if the cloud isn’t a Big Bang fossils, the fact that it remained clean is interesting nonetheless. For example, the gas might be clean because it was polluted by one of the first stars and that is the reason why our telescopes can’t detect heavy elements traces.
“This is an exciting possibility because understanding how such gas clouds ‘feed’ galaxies is a major problem in astrophysics,” explained Murphy. “We’d like to test this possibility by mapping any galaxies near the cloud in future.”