We made it! It’s the end of Winter Quarter classes (only if you are in Weinberg, sorry everyone else without a reading week). Even though we have reached the end, for this week in science, we are going back to the beginning.
“First light” in universe detected
Did we really detect the first light?
Not quite. Astronomer Judd Bowman of Arizona State University led a project in Western Australia for the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory. Media sources like CNN report Bowman’s work as discovering the beginning of light in the form of the earliest stars 180 million years after the Big Bang. However, Bowman and his team have only found the earliest light yet detected.
How was this achieved?
This project has been running for 12 years in rural Australia, where there is minimal human signal interference. Signals from human activities like cell towers can interfere with the data collected at the observatory. As with any major discovery, more work will be required to confirm the findings.
Why is this significant?
The gases detected at this cosmic dawn were colder than predicted by models, and scientists are pointing to dark matter as a potential explanation for the difference in temperature. Should this be true, it would be the first time that dark matter has been detected by something other than gravitational influence.
“We’ve been trying to study the period when stars first formed for 35 years,” says Martha Haynes, an astronomer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. “I’m excited to think that we have finally detected the signal sought for so long.”