This animation shows EGS77’s place in cosmic history, flies to the galaxies, and
illustrates how ultraviolet light from their stars create bubbles of ionized hydrogen
around them. Credit: NASA/GSFC
An international team of astronomers funded in part by NASA has found the farthest galaxy group identified to date. Called EGS77, the trio of galaxies dates to a time when the universe was only 680 million years old, or less than 5% of its current age of 13.8 billion years.
More significantly, observations show the galaxies are participants in a sweeping cosmic makeover called reionization. The era began when light from the first stars changed the nature of hydrogen throughout the universe in a manner akin to a frozen lake melting in the spring. This transformed the dark, light-quenching early cosmos into the one we see around us today. ...
While more distant individual galaxies have been observed, EGS77 is the farthest galaxy group to date showing the specific wavelengths of far-ultraviolet light revealed by reionization. This emission, called Lyman alpha light, is prominent in all members of EGS77. ...
Onset of Cosmic Reionization: Evidence of An Ionized
Bubble Merely 680 Myrs after the Big Bang ~ V. Tilvi et al
Astronomers ... have identified several overlapping bubbles of hydrogen gas ionized by the stars in early galaxies, a mere 680 million years after the Big Bang. This is the earliest direct evidence from the period when the first generation of stars formed and began reionizing the hydrogen gas that permeated the Universe.
There was a period in the very early Universe — known as the “cosmic dark ages” — when elementary particles, formed in the Big Bang, had combined to form neutral hydrogen but no stars or galaxies existed yet to light up the Universe. This period began less than half a million years after the Big Bang and ended with the formation of the first stars. While this stage in the evolution of our Universe is indicated by computer simulations, direct evidence is sparse.
Now, astronomers using the infrared imager NEWFIRM on the 4-meter Mayall Telescope at the Kitt Peak National Observatory of NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (OIR Lab), have reported imaging a group of galaxies, known as EGS77, that contains these first stars. ...
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