Hubble astronomers discover early universe was overheated

Oct 07, 2010
This diagram traces the evolution of the universe from the big bang to the present. Two watershed epochs are shown. Not long after the big bang, light from the first stars burned off a fog of cold hydrogen in a process called reionization. At a later epoch quasars, the black-hole-powered cores of active galaxies, pumped out enough ultraviolet light to reionize the primordial helium. Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild (STScI)

If you think global warming is bad, 11 billion years ago the entire universe underwent, well, universal warming.

The consequence was that fierce blasts of radiation from voracious black holes stunted the growth of some small for a stretch of 500 million years.

This is the conclusion of a team of astronomers who used the new capabilities of NASA's to probe the invisible, remote .

Using the newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) they have identified an era, from 11.7 to 11.3 billion years ago, when the universe stripped off from primeval atoms — a process called ionization. This process heated intergalactic gas and inhibited it from gravitationally collapsing to form new generations of stars in some small galaxies. The lowest-mass galaxies were not even able to hold onto their gas, and it escaped back into intergalactic space.

Michael Shull of the University of Colorado and his team were able to find the telltale helium spectral absorption lines in the ultraviolet light from a quasar — the brilliant core of an active galaxy. The quasar beacon shines light through intervening clouds of otherwise invisible gas, like a headlight shining through a fog. The beam allows for a core-sample probe of the clouds of gas interspersed between galaxies in the early universe.

The universe went through an initial heat wave over 13 billion years ago when energy from early massive stars ionized cold interstellar hydrogen from the big bang. This epoch is actually called reionization because the hydrogen nuclei were originally in an ionized state shortly after the big bang.

But Hubble found that it would take another 2 billion years before the universe produced sources of ultraviolet radiation with enough energy to do the heavy lifting and reionize the primordial helium that was also cooked up in the big bang.

This radiation didn't come from stars, but rather from quasars. In fact the epoch when the helium was being reionized corresponds to a transitory time in the universe's history when quasars were most abundant.

The universe was a rambunctious place back then. Galaxies frequently collided, and this engorged supermassive black holes in the cores of galaxies with infalling gas. The furiously converted some of the gravitational energy of this mass to powerful far-ultraviolet that would blaze out of galaxies. This heated the intergalactic helium from 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit to nearly 40,000 degrees. After the helium was reionized in the universe, intergalactic gas again cooled down and dwarf galaxies could resume normal assembly. "I imagine quite a few more dwarf galaxies may have formed if helium reionization had not taken place," said Shull.

So far Shull and his team only have one sightline to measure the helium transition, but the COS science team plans to use Hubble to look in other directions to see if the helium reionization uniformly took place across the universe.

Explore further: Raven soars through first light and second run

More information: The science team's results will be published in the October 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

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AkiBola
1.5 / 5 (15) Oct 07, 2010
"If you think global warming is bad..."

All that gorgeous warm weather and fertile productive land, simply awful. Bring on the next ice age! Skiing is highly underrated.
Husky
1.8 / 5 (12) Oct 07, 2010
sometimes i wonder if the big bang itself is a scaled up quazar event, some quazars have been observed with jets of over a million lightyears long, now imagine that 1000 times bigger,a huge blackhole spewing 2 jets, one north one south (relative to the spin axis), both jets contain highly energized primordial particles out of wich (because of the black hoel spin) 2 universe arise, one more lefthanded, one more righthanded (hint, the antimatter universe in that case be created on opposed side of spinaxis), darkenergy, expanding of our universe than could be understood as a laserbeam/black hole jet loosing its coherence/due to less magnetic confinement as it moves forward, some research hints that there is small difference in nature constants, observing the universe with telescopes from the northern/southern hemisphere, this could imho fit with assymmetrical universe, looking along the spinaxis
Husky
1.7 / 5 (10) Oct 07, 2010
also, do a search for The Dark Flow near the edge of the observable universe, clusters of galaxies moving in convoy towards The Great Attractor, seperately from the universal expansion around us, this to me suggest we might be looking of past remnants of the jet when it was in a tighter state, for this wild idea to be true, if indeed we condesed out one of a hypermassive black hole jet, additional evidence must be found: that the universe around us should have a small but measurable spinaxis, the further you look back, the more apparent it should come out of the statistics of measuring the gascloud directions/velocities, even stars in all directions, wich condensed out of that should have in many cases spinaxes lined up in numbers that are above statistical noise/randomness
axemaster
2.6 / 5 (5) Oct 07, 2010
""If you think global warming is bad..."

All that gorgeous warm weather and fertile productive land, simply awful. Bring on the next ice age! Skiing is highly underrated."

Yeah I love it too when people are starving to death and fighting wars over water and food.
SteveL
2.5 / 5 (11) Oct 07, 2010
Human-caused pre-hisorical universal warming? We get blamed for everything else, why not this?

"Yeah I love it too when people are starving to death and fighting wars over water and food."

I'm certain overpopulation, inept/corrupt leaders and just plain ignorance wouldn't have anything to do with this.
EarthlingX
5 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2010
Nice article, if it would use Kelvin temp.
MorituriMax
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 07, 2010
sometimes i wonder if the big bang itself is a scaled up quazar event, some quazars have been observed with jets of over a million lightyears long, now imagine that 1000 times bigger,a huge blackhole spewing 2 jets, one north one south (relative to the spin axis), both jets contain highly energized primordial particles out of wich (because of the black hoel spin) 2 universe arise, one more lefthanded, one more righthanded (hint, the antimatter universe in that case be created on opposed side of spinaxis), darkenergy, expanding of our universe than could be understood as a laserbeam/black hole jet loosing its coherence/due to less magnetic confinement as it moves forward, some research hints that there is small difference in nature constants, observing the universe with telescopes from the northern/southern hemisphere, this could imho fit with assymmetrical universe, looking along the spinaxis


Um, isn't it kind of hard to spew gas into space which doesn't exist yet.
Skultch
3 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2010
Um, isn't it kind of hard to spew gas into space which doesn't exist yet.


Maybe I'll find this in my 2x DVD quantum mechanics lecture, but I just don't get this yet. Isn't spacetime just a description of how matter is interacting with other matter? (gravitons?) If space is material isn't that like saying there is an aether? Why can't matter fill a true void?

I'm not proposing anything here, I just want to know what the standard theory explains. Thanks.
Mr_Man
2.5 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2010
Um, isn't it kind of hard to spew gas into space which doesn't exist yet.


Maybe I'll find this in my 2x DVD quantum mechanics lecture, but I just don't get this yet. Isn't spacetime just a description of how matter is interacting with other matter? (gravitons?) If space is material isn't that like saying there is an aether? Why can't matter fill a true void?

I'm not proposing anything here, I just want to know what the standard theory explains. Thanks.


One thing that might help you visualize what the universe expansion is like - why it isn't expanding into a "void" is this: Expansion happens in between matter. There is a common analogy: Take a large balloon that is slightly filled with air and put pennies (galaxies) on points equal distances from each other all around the balloon. Blow up the balloon, all points start moving away from each other - the space in between is expanding - the real universe is a 3D version of that.
Mr_Man
1.5 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2010
Continuing - so the expansion is happening WITHIN our Universe, it isn't like matter is expanding outward from the point of the big bang. After the Big Bang there was just an ocean of gas of sub atomic particles Across the entire universe. Then, due to quantum jitters, matter started clumping together to form what we see today.

Why didn't ALL the matter clump together? There is a reason for it, I just don't remember that answer.
PS3
3 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2010
Doesn't superclusters say something is wrong as it would take far longer for them to form than 14 billion.
Skultch
not rated yet Oct 07, 2010
One thing that might help you visualize what the universe expansion is like - why it isn't expanding into a "void" is this: Expansion happens in between matter.


Yes, I'm familiar with that (inflation), and that does narrow down the issue. What about the first nanosecond after the beginning of BB? How was there enough space between the matter to push out? Also, doesn't the outermost matter get pushed then occupy a "space" or xyz coordinate that was previously unoccupied? These are the questions that make "space didn't exist yet" not make sense to me.
Skultch
5 / 5 (1) Oct 07, 2010
I guess outside the universe, time and distance have no meaning, because there is nothing relative to anything else. So far, I'm not seeing anything that refutes Husky's theory; not that I'm really defending it.
MorituriMax
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
What I was trying to get across was that at the time of the Big Bang, there wasn't ANYTHING yet, no space, nothing. Then according to the theory, we get a sudden inflation of space time where there was no space time.

So going by that, there wouldn't have BEEN any space for stuff to be spewing into. That could only have happened later, after the inflationary period got to the point where we even had quarks to have particles to have quasars spewing said particles.
DamienS
5 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2010
What I was trying to get across was that at the time of the Big Bang, there wasn't ANYTHING yet, no space, nothing.

How do you know that? That's merely an assumption.
Thecis
3 / 5 (2) Oct 08, 2010
The main point is that we DON'T know what was before (or even during) the Big Bang (right after (seconds or nanoseconds after) the Big Bang we're rather sure but exactly during the BB we're not). Because we can't see beyond a certain point we indeed assume there was no space. Most likely, some kind of space was there but not as we know it (also a assumption and you know what they say about assumptions...).
There are numerous possibilities like other dimensions, circular in 3 dimensions or indeed two enormous black holes colliding and exploding creating a pressure wave with inside matter that we call the universe today. You name a possibility and it can probably be true. Why? Because we haven't got the knowledge (yet) to see beyond the universe edges... The world was also once the center (how could it have been different!).

We'll see in the future who was right. Perhaps we'll know in heaven or whereever and have a good laugh about how ignorant we really were. Who can tell?
DamienS
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
Thecis, you almost make a good argument, but then you say "Perhaps we'll know in heaven" which devalues it significantly.
Ojorf
not rated yet Oct 08, 2010
@DamienS

not assumption at all, its general relativity!
DamienS
5 / 5 (1) Oct 08, 2010
@DamienS

not assumption at all, its general relativity!

Huh? What's GR got to do with it?
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
for this wild idea to be true, if indeed we condesed out one of a hypermassive black hole jet, additional evidence must be found: that the universe around us should have a small but measurable spinaxis
Except the experimental evidence shows no spin axis.
@DamienS

not assumption at all, its general relativity!
You don't understand General relativity.
PS3
2 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2010
There was no big bang and expanding universe.

The Milky Way galaxy aged at 13.6 billion says it all.
PS3
2 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2010
Seriously, how can the universe only be 13.75 billion old if our own galaxy is 13.6? Not to mention with the Hubble deep field we have observed fully formed galaxies 13 billion away which clearly took them billions to form.
PS3
1 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
Also ,measuring what is relative to earth is meaningless for age is it it not?
dvdamian
3 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2010
Err, I m sorry, this is totally at odds with the two things that Count against GR. The Lack of dilation in the light of distant quasars and the Hubble Deep Field image. So far we have seen no evidence (observed) that suggests a primordial universe. What we have observed is fully formed galaxies 98% of time period to the big bang.

Considering that GR cannot explain Singularities (aka Infinity +1) and that the light from Quasars (aka Singularities) is unexplainable with GR, what they hell is this paper about. They are trying to bolster GR based on observed light from singularities that GR cannot explain. Infinity + 1 is still infinity. WTF?
Skeptic_Heretic
3.6 / 5 (5) Oct 08, 2010
There was no big bang and expanding universe.
Give us your explanation with evidence to support it.
The Milky Way galaxy aged at 13.6 billion says it all.
Oldest known object in the galaxy is 13.2 byo, HE 1523-0901, however, that doesn't determine the age of the galaxy in any useful way due to the very common practice of galactic cannibalism.
Not to mention with the Hubble deep field we have observed fully formed galaxies 13 billion away which clearly took them billions to form.
Why would it take billions of years for galaxies to form? Reference for the galaxy you're speaking of is necessary. Catalogue number will suffice.
Also ,measuring what is relative to earth is meaningless for age is it it not?
High school level physics answers this question for you.
PS3
2 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2010
Redshifts are an illusion of some sort i'm thinking.
----
13.2 still is too old for the age of 13.75...right?
----
It would take billions because that is what I have read and seen video about the evolution of them.
----
Skeptic_Heretic
4 / 5 (8) Oct 08, 2010
Redshifts are an illusion of some sort i'm thinking.
They're not. It's a similar effect to why the tone of a train whistle changes as it rolls away from you at speed. Red shift is an observed fact.
13.2 still is too old for the age of 13.75...right?
Not hardly.
It would take billions because that is what I have read and seen video about the evolution of them.
Name the video please, it is in error either due to being out of date or just plain incorrect.
PS3
1 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
Well,couldn't it still be caused by something else like say the next stage up from supemassive black hole sucking what is at the edge making it appear that way?
-----
you agree with age given?
-----
sorry,don't remember but am pretty sure I have heard it more than once as well.
Skeptic_Heretic
3.8 / 5 (4) Oct 08, 2010
Well,couldn't it still be caused by something else like say the next stage up from supemassive black hole sucking what is at the edge making it appear that way?
Yes it could, but without a hypothesis and observation to apply to that hypothesis we cannot make such wild assumptions.
you agree with age given?
Until observations show that estimate to be explicitly incorrect, yes. Once I receive new data I'll change my agreement.
sorry,don't remember but am pretty sure I have heard it more than once as well.
If you can give us a source for your statement, that'd be ideal, otherwise empirically we'll have to treat it as opinion just as we would treat any other hearsay in lieu of evidence.
PS3
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
How could it not take billions if it takes that long just for a planet to form?
Skeptic_Heretic
3.7 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2010
How could it not take billions if it takes that long just for a planet to form?

Again, source please. No one has stated that it takes billions of years for a planet to form.

Current estimates for the formation of the earth number in the millions, not billions of years.
genastropsychicallst
1 / 5 (4) Oct 09, 2010
... phonon pi 10 sphere type ...
rexalfielee
not rated yet Oct 11, 2010
If a black hole is so massively high in gravitational pull that light doesn't go past, rather bends in, then how does radiation get out. This doesn't really make much sense.
Skultch
5 / 5 (1) Oct 11, 2010
If a black hole is so massively high in gravitational pull that light doesn't go past, rather bends in, then how does radiation get out. This doesn't really make much sense.


Then read Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time."

If I remember the "Brief HoT" correctly, the radiation is emitted from just outside the event horizon.
nonoice
5 / 5 (2) Oct 11, 2010
If a black hole is so massively high in gravitational pull that light doesn't go past, rather bends in, then how does radiation get out. This doesn't really make much sense.


Then read Hawking's "A Briefer History of Time."

If I remember the "Brief HoT" correctly, the radiation is emitted from just outside the event horizon.


Wikipedia:
Due to conservation of angular momentum, gas falling into the gravitational well created by a massive object will typically form a disc-like structure around the object. Friction within the disc causes angular momentum to be transported outward allowing matter to fall further inward releasing potential energy and increasing the temperature of the gas.
Source: http://arxiv.org/.../0306213

Copy pasting is always better then my own gibberish english
duurrk
not rated yet Oct 13, 2010
There are numerous possibilities like other dimensions, circular in 3 dimensions or indeed two enormous black holes colliding and exploding creating a pressure wave with inside matter that we call the universe today.


I am very curious as to why there is so much speculation of this uni-directional expansion. I agree with the idea that there exist numerous explanations, and think that if anything, the 'bang' would, like other cosmic explosions, expand in all directions. Perhaps we have limited visibility of the expansion beyond the scope of this "tunnel" of cosmic expansion we envision. The point is, we don't know; we may only build the most sensible hypothesis, and work hard to support and/or break it in efforts to build a more ideal solution. Work together, play nice.