Archive for June 10, 2013

NASA Chandra, Spitzer Study Suggests Black Holes Abundant Among The Earliest Stars

June 10, 2013 2 comments

By comparing infrared and X-ray background signals across the same stretch of sky, an international team of astronomers has discovered evidence of a significant number of black holes that accompanied the first stars in the universe.

Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, which observes in the infrared, researchers have concluded one of every five sources contributing to the infrared signal is a black hole.

“Our results indicate black holes are responsible for at least 20 percent of the cosmic infrared background, which indicates intense activity from black holes feeding on gas during the epoch of the first stars,” said Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

The cosmic infrared background (CIB) is the collective light from an epoch when structure first emerged in the universe. Astronomers think it arose from clusters of massive suns in the universe’s first stellar generations, as well as black holes, which produce vast amounts of energy as they accumulate gas.

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International Team On Keck Observatory Strengthens Big Bang Theory

An international team of scientists using the most powerful telescope on Earth has discovered the moments just after the Big Bang happened more like the theory predicts, eliminating a significant discrepancy that troubled physicists for two decades. The discovery will be published in the international journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on June 6.

One of the most important problems in physics and astronomy was the inconsistency between the lithium isotopes previously observed in the oldest stars in our galaxy, which suggested levels about two hundred times more Li-6 and about three to five time less Li-7 than Big Bang nucleosynthesis predicts. This serious problem in our understanding of the early Universe has invoked exotic physics and fruitless searches for pre-galactic production sources to reconcile the differences.

The team, led by Karin Lind of the University of Cambridge, has proven the decades-old inventory relied on lower quality observational data with analysis using several simplifications that resulted in spurious detections of lithium isotopes.

Using observations of ancient stars with W. M. Keck Observatory’s 10-meter telescope and state-of-the-art models of their atmospheres has shown that there is no conflict between their lithium-6 and lithium-7 content and predictions of the standard theory of Big Bang nucleosynthesis, restoring thus the order in our theory of the early universe.

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UCI Scientists Size Up Universe’s Most Lightweight Dwarf Galaxy

The least massive galaxy in the known universe has been measured by UC Irvine scientists, clocking in at just 1,000 or so stars with a bit of dark matter holding them together.

The findings, made with the world’s most powerful telescopes at the W. M. Keck Observatory and published today in The Astrophysical Journal, offer tantalizing clues about how iron, carbon and other elements key to human life originally formed. But the size and weight of Segue 2, as the star body is called, are its most extraordinary aspects.

“Finding a galaxy as tiny as Segue 2 is like discovering an elephant smaller than a mouse,” said UC Irvine cosmologist James Bullock, co-author of the paper. Astronomers have been searching for years for this type of dwarf galaxy, long predicted to be swarming around the Milky Way. Their inability to find any, he said, “has been a major puzzle, suggesting that perhaps our theoretical understanding of structure formation in the universe was flawed in a serious way.”

Segue 2’s presence as a satellite of our home galaxy could be “a tip-of-the-iceberg observation, with perhaps thousands more very low-mass systems orbiting just beyond our ability to detect them,” he added.

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