Ancient ‘fossil cloud’ could shed light on formation of the early universe

A “fossilized” cloud of gas that could be from the time of the Big Bang has been discovered by researchers using data from the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii.

The distant cloud is one of only three known fossil clouds in the universe, and could provide valuable information about the formation of the earliest galaxies. The fossil was discovered by examining the spectrum of light given out by a quasar located behind a gas cloud. A quasar emits a bright burst of energy when matter falls into a black hole at the heart of a galaxy, and against the background of this bright light source the shadows of the hydrogen in the gas cloud can be seen.

The gas cloud was detected using the Keck Observatory’s Echellette Spectrograph and Imager (ESI) and High-Resolution Echelle Spectrometer (HIRES) instruments which could pick out the shadows of the gas cloud. The team selected particular quasars to investigate based on previous research where scientists had found shadows from hydrogen but not from heavier elements, suggesting that the gas clouds in question could be from the earliest stages of the universe before heavier elements had formed.

A simulation of galaxies and gases, with the galaxies shown in orange and the gases in blue. TNG COLLABORATION

The discovery of this fossil cloud is important because typically when astronomers look at information about the early universe they are working from samples which have been contaminated by later interactions. But the fossil cloud is essentially untouched, giving scientists the opportunity to see the composition of the cloud. “Everywhere we look, the gas in the universe is polluted by waste heavy elements from exploding stars,” PhD student Fred Robert, a member of the research team, explains. “But this particular cloud seems pristine, unpolluted by stars even 1.5 billion years after the Big Bang.”

“If it has any heavy elements at all, it must be less than 1/10,000th of the proportion we see in our Sun,” he went on to say. “This is extremely low; the most compelling explanation is that it’s a true relic of the Big Bang.”

The previous two fossil clouds were discovered by chance, so this marks the first time that a team has searched for and discovered a fossil cloud deliberately.

Editors’ Recommendations

Laser TagEnjoy a game of Laser Tag in the comfort of your own home. This pair of mini combat laser tag pistols are great fun and will keep you busy for hours as you run, hide, aim and shoot at your opponent. Tag your targets and score points, you have 3 lives each and it the first contender to lose all their lives loses. When a gun registers a hit from the other pistol, this means you lose a life. Makes a great gift or an ideal game for a party. These Laser Tag guns can easily attach to your keychain meaning you can carry it whilst on the move. These guns require 3xAG13 batteries (included) in each to operate.     - More Info

Laser TagLaser Tag 2. All LEDs are scarlet red 3. All LEDs flash upon impact Requires 6 x AA batteries (Not included) - More Info

Our crew neck, short sleeved men's t shirts are 100% premium cotton in a soft pre-shrunk jersey knit. Our women's t shirts are lighter weight 150g tees made with deluxe 30's soft style yarns for a soft feel." alt="Tag T Shirt" title="Tag T Shirt" width="150" height="150">Hashtag, you’re it. Combining childhood games with technology. T Shirt design reads: < you're it >Our crew neck, short sleeved men's t shirts are 100% premium cotton in a soft pre-shrunk jersey knit. Our women's t shirts are lighter weight 150g tees made with deluxe 30's soft style yarns for a soft feel. - More Info

Engraved Pet TagSince 1992 it's been mandatory for any dog in a public place to wear a collar with the owner's details on it.You could settle for a plain, boring collar and hand write your details on it or you could show everyone who's really top dog with our engraved pet tag!On one side of the circular tag is a silver paw print design overlaid on a sleek, black glittery background. Flip the tag over and there's room for four lines of your details. Our expert engravers will ensure your personal info is clear, readable and resistant to all-weathers.Make your dog the envy of owners and dogs alike with our Engraved Pet Tag. Also suitable for feline friends!Dimensions: 35mm(L) x 25mm(W) x 1mm(D). - More Info

Retirement Gift TagMake a leaving gift extra special by adding a bespoke label to your co workers retirement gift. A personalised gift tag doubles up as a modern gift card and can be kept in the home after the present has been opened (or the wine has been drank). The recipient could hang it up on a window latch or cupboard door handle and it will remind them of all the happy memories from their workplace. Dimensions: Measures approx 3.5cm wide x 6cm high and 3mm deep. Material: Made from clear acrylic. - More Info

You may also like...

       
Apps & Games Clothing Electronics & Photo Large Appliances
Baby Womens Apparel Garden Lighting
Beauty Mens Apparel Outdoors Luggage
Books Girls Apparel Health & Personal Care Pet Supplies
Car Boys Apparel Home Shoes & Bags
Motorbike Computers & Accessories Kitchen Equipment Sports & Outdoors
Fashion DIY & Tools Jewellery Toys & Games