Scientists May Have Found a Time Capsule of the Big Bang

Scientists May Have Found a Time Capsule of the Big Bang

Astronomers have found the 3rd cloud of cosmic gas that has remained totally unaffected by the explosion of stars.

Scientists have unveiled many secrets of our universe but its mysterious nature keeps on surprising us with even stranger phenomena. Some of the most bizarre celestial objects include Screaming Skull Nebulas, Cannibal Galaxies, and Hurricanes of Dark Matter. The expectation level of astronomers has grown to a point where these things are no more a surprise for them. However, one thing that even they don’t expect to find is a massive interstellar could of gas that has remained untouched for all these years since the beginning of the universe.

This shocking news was reported from the W.M. Keck Observatory on dormant Mauna Kea volcano in Hawaii. The researchers pinpointed that they found a huge interstellar cloud of Hydrogen, the first and the lightest element that was formed moments after the Big Bang. This means that the cloud called LLS1723 has encountered no development at all for all these years. Although it seems shockingly hard to believe due to the explosion of stars (which has polluted most parts of the universe with heavy elements), this cloud might prove to be an exception. Fred Robert, a Ph.D. student at Swinburne University of Technology and the Lead Author of the study, referred to that and said,

Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste heavy elements from exploding stars. But this particular cloud seems pristine, unpolluted by stars even 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.

Hydrogen and Helium were the only elements which gave birth to the first stars of the universe. All the other elements present in the periodic table came from fusion reactions inside those stars. Whenever a star explodes in form of a supernova, these elements are spread into the surrounding space. The knowledge of all these facts makes it even more difficult to believe that a single cloud of gas remained safe from this widespread procedure for billions of years. According to Robert, the most compelling explanation for this mystery is that this cloud is a rare time capsule of the earliest minutes of our universe. He mentioned that it might have the information of a time when even the first stars of the universe were not born.

It is only the 3rd incident that such an untarnished cosmic cloud has been traced. Both the prior discoveries were made by the team of Michele Fumagalli in 2011. They also used the same telescope (W.M. Keck Observatory) for their research work. Their study, published in the journal Science, explained that both these clouds could be the result of the inconsistent ways adopted by metals to flow in the interstellar space. They also suggested that it is just the beginning and a lot of other unsullied regions of space are present between the galaxies. It was their paper that urged Robert to look for similar clouds in space.

The researching team devised a systematic approach to carry out their research. They selected 10 known Quasars, which were previously shown to exist behind low-metal dust clouds. After that, they used the optical telescope of the W.M. Observatory to target these quasars. They used these quasars as backlights to illuminate the gassy shadows in front of them. The precise wavelengths of light emitted through each of these clouds were measured and studied to figure out the elements inside that cloud. LLS1723 was the only cloud that showed no apparent signs of any element except Hydrogen. The authors of the latest study elaborated that by saying,

Apparently metal-free clouds like LLS1723 may be completely pristine, intergalactic gas — surviving vestiges of the early universe that have never… [been] polluted by stellar debris.”

The success of this experimental research has strengthened the idea that cosmos are full of such clouds, which may provide some extremely useful insights about the earliest moments of our universe. In addition to that, it has also given a proven system for future hunting. Despite the finding, Robert agreed that more research is needed to understand the reason(s) due to which these clouds stayed unblemished for these many years. He mentioned that they will try to study the surrounding neighborhood of the cloud to end this long-lasting mystery.

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