Astronomers Find Clouds of Primordial Gas from the
Early Universe, Just Moments After Big Bang
ScienceDaily (Nov. 10, 2011)
— For the first time, astronomers have found
pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed
in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.
composition of the gas matches theoretical
predictions, providing direct evidence in
support of the modern cosmological explanation
for the origins of elements in the universe.
lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium,
were created in the Big Bang. Then a few
hundred million years passed before clumps of this
primordial gas condensed to form the first stars,
where heavier elements were forged. Until now,
astronomers have always detected "metals" (their
term for all elements heavier than hydrogen and
helium) wherever they have looked in the universe.
"As hard as we've tried to find pristine material
in the universe, we have failed until now.
the first time we've observed pristine gas
uncontaminated by heavier elements from stars,"
said J. Xavier Prochaska, professor of astronomy
and astrophysics at the University of California,
Santa Cruz. Prochaska is coauthor of a paper on
the findings published online in Science
on November 10. First author Michele Fumagalli is
a UC Santa Cruz graduate student, and coauthor
John O'Meara is at Saint Michael's College,
"The lack of metals tells us this gas is
pristine," Fumagalli said. "It's quite exciting,
because it's the first evidence that fully matches
the composition of the primordial gas predicted by
the Big Bang theory."