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Here’s when the universe’s first stars may have been born

Radio observations put the ‘cosmic dawn’ 180 million years after the Big Bang

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1:00pm, February 28, 2018
illustration of early stars

TOTALLY LIT  The first stars in the universe switched on by 180 million years after the Big Bang, radio observations indicate. Ultraviolet light from early, blueish stars (illustrated) interacted with hydrogen gas, causing it to absorb background radiation, and creating a signature scientists have now detected.

For the first time, scientists may have detected hints of the universe’s primordial sunrise, when the first twinkles of starlight appeared in the cosmos.  

Stars began illuminating the heavens by about 180 million years after the universe was born, researchers report in the March 1 Nature. This “cosmic dawn” left its mark on the hydrogen gas that surrounded the stars (SN: 6/8/02, p. 362). Now, a radio antenna has reportedly picked up that resulting signature.

“It’s a tremendously exciting result. It’s the first time we’ve possibly had a glimpse of this era of cosmic history,” says observational cosmologist H. Cynthia Chiang of the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa, who was not involved in the research.

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