How would you like to see the light emitted from the very first stars that formed in the universe? Soon, scientists might have the ability to take that picture and reveal some secrets about the universes earliest objects.
The universe came into existence in a massive eruption we call ‘the Big Bang’ about 13.7 billion years ago. The first stars ever born are thought to have ignited about 100 million years after the Big Bang. At this time, scientists believe that the early gasses would have had enough time to gather into clumps dense enough collapse under its own gravity and start nuclear fusion.
With telescopes peering deeper and deeper into the history of the universe, why haven’t scientists been able to see these stars before? Simply put, the objects between Earth and these ancient stars are so bright they obscure that early light. Because of this, in the vastness of space, scientists didn’t know where to start looking. For reference, the Hubble Ultra Deepfield image is only about 3 arcminutes across (or a 10th of the area of the full moon as seen from Earth). When looking for an object as far away and as small as these stars, you need to know exactly where to look.
Dark matter seems to hold the key for imaging the very first stars. Dark matter itself also seems very intangible (meaning light and matter usually pass through it). This means Dark matter and normal matter moved at very different speeds in the early universe. Normal matter was able to clump together and create stars, the gravity and radiation from which strongly influenced the way other objects formed soon therefore after.
Already, using these calculations, scientists have imaged these stars and found a distinct patter in their distribution. Unfortunately, our current telescopes aren’t sharp enough to image these stars individually, rather we can only capture large groups of them as a big blurry blob.
Fortunately, scientists should be able to take sharp, crisp pictures of the universe’s first stars with observatories such as the Murchison Widefield Array, though, it hasn't made such observations as of yet. Who knows, we may greet the New Year with a picture from very old year, from a very far away and old star; and that is a picture I would love to see.