Astronomers find pristine clouds of primordial gas from the early Universe

Nov 10, 2011
The two pristine gas clouds found by astronomers could sit in one of the filamentary regions visible around galaxies in this and the below image, which are from computer simulations. Credit: Simulation by Ceverino, Dekel & Primack

(PhysOrg.com) -- For the first time, astronomers have found pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. The composition of the gas matches theoretical predictions, providing direct evidence in support of the modern cosmological explanation for the origins of elements in the universe.

Only the lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang. Then a few hundred million years passed before clumps of this primordial gas condensed to form the first stars, where heavier elements were forged. Until now, astronomers have always detected "metals" (their term for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) wherever they have looked in the universe.

"As hard as we've tried to find pristine material in the universe, we have failed until now. This is the first time we've observed pristine gas uncontaminated by heavier elements from stars," said J. Xavier Prochaska, professor of at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Prochaska is coauthor of a paper on the findings published online in Science on November 10. First author Michele Fumagalli is a UC Santa Cruz graduate student, and coauthor John O'Meara is at Saint Michael's College, Vermont.

"The lack of metals tells us this gas is pristine," Fumagalli said. "It's quite exciting, because it's the first evidence that fully matches the composition of the primordial gas predicted by the ."

The researchers discovered the two clouds of pristine gas by analyzing the light from distant quasars, using the HIRES spectrometer on the at the W. M. in Hawaii. By spreading out the bright light from a quasar into a spectrum of different wavelengths, the researchers can see which wavelengths were absorbed by material in between the quasar and the telescope.

"We can see absorption lines in the spectrum where the light was absorbed by the gas, and that allows us to measure the composition of the gas," Fumagalli said.

Every element has a unique fingerprint that shows up as dark lines in the spectrum. In the spectra from the , the researchers saw only hydrogen and its heavy isotope deuterium, Prochaska said. "We don't have any sensitivity to helium, but we would expect to see it if we did," he noted. "We do have excellent sensitivity for carbon, oxygen, and silicon, and these elements are completely absent."

Prior to this discovery, the lowest measurements of metal abundance in the universe were about one-thousandth the "metallicity" of the sun. "People had thought there was a 'floor' to metallicity, that nothing could be less than one-thousandth the solar enrichment. That's because the metals produced in galaxies were so widely dispersed in the universe," Fumagalli said. "So this was unexpected. It challenges our ideas about how metals are dispersed from the stars that produce them."

The researchers estimated a metallicity for the pristine gas of about one-ten-thousandth that of the sun. At the other extreme, stars and gas with the highest metallicities are almost ten times as enriched as the sun. "The metal abundance in different pockets of the universe covers a tremendous range," Prochaska said. "So these findings place ßnew constraints on our understanding of how metals are distributed throughout the universe."

Powerful telescopes see distant objects as they were far back in time, due to the time it takes light to travel across the universe. The spectrographic analysis of the pristine gas clouds places them in time at about 2 billion years after the Big Bang, or nearly 12 billion years ago. At that time, theoretical models predict that galaxies were growing by pulling in vast streams of cold gas, but these "cold flows" have never been seen. According to Fumagalli, the pristine gas clouds are potential candidates for these elusive cold flows. Further studies are needed, however, to see if the newly discovered gas clouds are associated with galaxies.

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User comments : 22

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Jeddy_Mctedder
1.9 / 5 (8) Nov 10, 2011
maybe all the metals were sucked dry by the aliens that need them?

if only :(
yyz
5 / 5 (6) Nov 10, 2011
If confirmed, this would be a momentous discovery. However, details are still sketchy, and the long history of previous discoveries of truly "primordial gas" are goods reasons to await further details and independent confirmation of results.
Skepticus
1 / 5 (4) Nov 10, 2011
Only the lightest elements, MOSTLY hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang

which means elements heavier than those 2 were also created. What was the mechanism? Anybody knows?
jsdarkdestruction
3 / 5 (4) Nov 10, 2011
stellar nucleosynthesis.
http://en.wikiped...ynthesis

Callippo
1 / 5 (9) Nov 10, 2011
If you can observe the light of galaxy passing through pristine gas, it just means, this galaxy is still farther, which means, there are still a younger objects with much higher metalicity, than this gas.
eachus
5 / 5 (13) Nov 10, 2011
Which means elements heavier than those 2 were also created. What was the mechanism? Anybody knows?


Sure, that's pretty easy if you look at a table of isotopes. There are two "unmagic" numbers, where nuclei instantly* fall apart, at five and eight. Deuterium and Helium4 can fuse to form Lithium6, which can become Lithium7. But getting past eight just didn't happen in the Big Bang.

So the primordial gas is mostly hydrogen, deuterium, and Helium, with a little bit of Lithium 6 and 7. (Some He3, but that's pretty rare, mostly from the decay of tritium (half-life about a decade).

Only in the core of hotter stars do you get "helium burning", where three He4 merge to form Carbon12. From there the door is wide open (up to iron) with even numbered elements with the same number of neutrons most favored: O16, Ne20, Mg24, Si28, S32, etc.

* The half lives in the lab are all under a second, but would have been much shorter under Big Bang conditions.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2011
which means elements heavier than those 2 were also created. What was the mechanism? Anybody knows?

My guess: Same mechanism that the Helium came from. After the big bang (and after the temperature got cold enough to support formation of electrons, protons and neutrons) Some of this stuff fused (remember: it was still very hot/dense back then).
There are probabilities associated with all the fusion reactions.

Most probable being Hydrogen to Helium. All other fusion reactions are increasingly unlikely as you go up the list of elements - but not impossible (so the chance of getting any metals is not zero).

This even goes for fusion reactions which take more energy than they release (anything beyond iron) - as the universe was likely chaotic enough to allow for small pockets where enough energy was present to supply the conditions for this to happen)
omatumr
1 / 5 (18) Nov 11, 2011
Only the lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang . . . astronomers have found pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang . . . direct evidence in support of the modern cosmological explanation for the origins of elements in the universe


Sounds impressive, but I suspect it is a mistake.

Hydrogen (H) and Helium (He) are waste products of neutron stars generated by:

a.) Neutron-emission,

b.) Neutron decay to H, and

c.) H-fusion into He.

These waste products accumulate as a glowing sphere of waste products that hide the neutron star until the star explodes and exposes the neutron star [1,2].

1. "Is the Universe Expanding?", The Journal of Cosmology 13, 4187-4190 (2011)

http://journalofc...102.html

2. "Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON Journal, in press (2011)

http://arxiv.org/...2.1499v1

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
http://myprofile....anuelo09
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (10) Nov 11, 2011
Omatumr: Read. The. Article. Before. Posting.
This is a basic rule (and should be common sense).

Otherwise you make yourself look more like a fool than usual.

This is about primordial gas - stuff that was around even before the first stars (yes, this includes neutron stars) formed.

Ethelred
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 11, 2011
Oliver, your theory has problems, spam will not fix it

You insist there is such a thing as neutron repulsion. You insist it is strong enough to stop the formation of black holes, not just stellar black holes but ALL black holes no matter what the size. Also it you claim it is long ranged enough to sunder galaxies. Though you refuse to answer any question about its actual strength or range those claims make it clear that it MUST be more powerful than gravity per unit of mass even if the mass is mostly hydrogen atoms as we can see makes up most the mass in the in the Universe, based on your denial of Dark Matter that is.

It really doesn't require a great deal of effort to notice that there is a severe problem with that set of claims. They make galaxies, stars, even neutron stars, planets and pretty much everything held together by gravity impossible.>>

Please explain this contradiction of reality that is an inevitable conclusion based on your own claims for Neutron Repulsion

Ethelred
epicurious
5 / 5 (4) Nov 11, 2011
Oliver, citing yourself is not a road to credibility, but your leading sentence is self-fulfilling.
Sounds impressive, but I suspect it is a mistake


jsdarkdestruction
2.2 / 5 (6) Nov 12, 2011
Oliver Manuel's recent efforts to plaster Physorg.com and other public news sites with his theories and personal URLs are a bit puzzling, as scientists have a variety of publications available to communicate directly to each other in. My best guess is that he is desperately trying to prop up his legacy in light of his arrest in his university office on 7 charges of rape and sodomy based on allegations by 4 of his own children. The charges have been reduced to one count of felony attempted sodomy, not necessarily because of his innocence, but because of the statute of limitations. One can only guess how the recent charges and decades of family strife have affected his ability to reason rationally and to remain objective while defending his unpopular theories.

http://www.homefa...uel.html

http://mominer.ms...hildren/
Tuxford
1 / 5 (7) Nov 12, 2011
Evidence exists that somewhat pristine gas clouds must also be present in recent times, to condense into low-metallicity young galaxies. With all the claimed galactic collisions imagined in the intervening timespans, how can such clouds remain unsullied for so long?

www.physorg.com/n...eas.html

In SQK cosmology pristine gas clouds can form even in recent times through continuous creation mechanisms. Intergalactic space is expected to harbor such clouds naturally.

http://www.physor...ace.html

How can both early pristine gas clouds and early abundant carbon confirm the BBF?

http://www.physor...rse.html

http://www.physor...ies.html

The explanations grow ever more complex, when a much simpler model better fits recent observations.

Callippo
1.5 / 5 (8) Nov 12, 2011
The standard cosmological model considers, all the matter of Universe formed during single event in homogeneous, finely diluted and hot state because of inflation, from which the matter gradually condensed into larger bodies. It has no meaning to speculate about it, just try to have look at Bolshoy or Millenium simulations of Universe evolution.

But from this model follows, the more distant galaxies we are observing, the more sparse and less developed these galaxies should be. But in recent time we are facing the increasing frequency of observations of many well developed galaxies with high metalicity even at the whole boundary of observable Universe. Although it's still possible to explain it with assumption of less or more accidental coincidences, it becomes apparent, we got into epicycle stage of cosmological models and the classical Big Bang model must be revised. The Big Bang is just another example of theory, where the schematic formal approach of mainstream physics failed.
Callippo
1 / 5 (8) Nov 12, 2011
If the clouds were discovered because they were in between a quasar and us, wouldn't that make the quasar younger than the clouds? If these clouds are there because they had not collapsed into stars yet, the quasar shouldn't be there and it disfavors the Big Bang model.

In dense aether model the Universe is essentially steady state and the galaxies are randomly condensing and evaporating into radiation like the giant fluctuations of dense gas. It would mean, the effects comparable to Big Bang occur all around us in diluted state. So we should ask, how the first stage formation of galaxies should appear and it they couldn't form a clouds of "pristine gas", free of heavier elements dispersed inside of voids between galaxies. And we should find the process, which is able to create electrons and protons spontaneously just with mutual annihilation of neutrinos and antineutrinos or materialization of gamma ray photons with CMBR background inside of dark matter clouds.
antialias_physorg
4 / 5 (4) Nov 12, 2011
If the clouds were discovered because they were in between a quasar and us, wouldn't that make the quasar younger than the clouds?

So?

If these clouds are there because they had not collapsed into stars yet, the quasar shouldn't be there

How exactly does that follow? The quasar is somewhere entirely else (a region much further along the line of sight which did collapse and formed stars). And what has this got to do with the BB model?

In dense aether model the Universe is essentially steady state and the galaxies are randomly condensing and evaporating into radiation like the giant fluctuations of dense gas. It would mean, the effects comparable to Big Bang occur all around us in diluted state.

And sice none of this is observed this should give you a good hint as to how much BS the dense aether theory is.
Callippo
1 / 5 (7) Nov 12, 2011
And sice none of this is observed
It was just observed. From AWT model follows, the pristine primordial gas should emerge between (i.e. all around) the quasars, not just behind them. In addition, such pristine clouds should correlate with distribution of dark matter clouds, if this model is correct.
hernandez
3 / 5 (2) Nov 13, 2011
PRIMORDIAL nucleosynthesis may have happened at redshift z~10^10.
If so, how can such a primordial gas cloud remain unsullied upto present redshift z=0? Thus detection of such a cloud may ACTUALLY be indicating that it is of recent origin (z=3), and there must be some mechanism which can give birth to such fresh gas. Such a source is indeed required to understand birth of new galaxies even at rather recent epochs.
Pet_mar
1 / 5 (3) Nov 21, 2011
The observable Universe is 46 billion light years.
The age of the universe is only 13.7 billion years.
If we assume the Universe was created by the Big bang,
the size of the core that exploded must be very large,
in contradiction as some believe.
Or does it invalidate the Big bang theory?

Petter Martinsen
DarkHorse66
1.3 / 5 (4) Nov 21, 2011
@Pet mar
Is this 46 bn years a radius (ie, as far as the 'eye' can see in any direction, with the earth as an assigned centre of a circle). Or are you talking in terms of diameter? Also, how precise is this figure? The further into the distance we look, the harder it is to main accuracy in measurement. As far as the era of the BB is concerned, is it not also possible that the methods used to calculate this, are not as accurate as what some people would prefer to assume that they are?
Regards, DH66
Pet_mar
1.8 / 5 (5) Nov 29, 2011
Yes, the visible part of the Universe seen from the Earth is a sphere with radius
aabout 46 billions light years.
Since we are located in the Milky Way outside the center of the Big bang,
the real size of the Universe is larger.
I see a coincidence between the claimed age of the Universe (13.73±0.12 billion years )
and the age of a star ( about 13 billion years).
It seems that we are only able to observe objects (stars) as long as they emit light.
But we observe galactics that are log way from us.
We know that the size of the Universe is larger than that - because we are not in the center.

It seems to me we should not assume a Big bang , but a process like a firework - the big bang was first,
but then were local explosions in the space.
Pet_mar
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2011
What I have written here eans we are not able to observe a distant object older than a lifecycle of a star.

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