A rare fossil relic of the Big Bang, a huge, pristine gas cloud of material created during the sudden birth of the cosmos has been discovered, the third relic discovered so far. The discovery could shed new light on the formation and evolution of the first galaxies.
"Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by heavy elements created by exploding stars," said graduate student Fred Robert of Swinburne University of Technology. "But this particular cloud seems untouched, even untouched by stars, 1
"If it has heavy elements at all, it must be less than a ten-thousandth of the proportion that we see in our sun. That's extremely low. The most convincing explanation is that it is a true relic of the Big Bang.
Robert, the Swinburne astronomy professor Michael Murphy and a research team outline their findings in a paper appearing in the [243                                                of the Royal Astronomical Society .
At the World Cup, the team used two instruments: the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the Echellette Spectrograph and Imager, and the high-resolution Echelle Spectrometer to dissect the light from a background quasar through the gas cloud. The team aimed at quasars based on previous lower-resolution observations that found traces of hydrogen but no heavier elements.
The strategy "enabled us to quickly discover such a rare fossil with precious time on the twin telescopes of the Keck Observatory," he told Robert.
Two more fossil clouds were created in 2011 by Michele Fumagalli of Durham University, John O'Meara, a former professor at St. Michael's College and today the new Chief Scientist at Keck Observatory, and Professor J. Xavier Prochaska from Washington found the University of California, Santa Cruz. Fumagalli and O & Meara are co-authors of the newspaper's latest discovery.
O & Meara said the first two are "accidental discoveries".
"We thought they were the tip of the iceberg, but no one has discovered anything similar," he said. "They are very rare and hard to see, so it's fantastic to finally discover one thing systematically."
Murphy said, "It is now possible to study these fossil relics of the Big Bang, which will tell us how rare they are, and help us to understand how some gases formed stars and galaxies in the early Universe, and why some do not did. "