Stellar 'Fireworks Finale' Came First in the Young Universe
February 9, 2005
This is an artist's impression of how the very early universe (less than 1 billion years old) might have looked when it went through a voracious onset of star formation, converting primordial hydrogen into myriad stars at an unprecedented rate. Back then the sky would have looked markedly different from the sea of quiescent galaxies around us today. The sky is ablaze with primeval starburst galaxies; giant elliptical and spiral galaxies have yet to form. Within the starburst galaxies, bright knots of hot blue stars come and go like bursting fireworks shells. Regions of new starbirth glow intensely red under a torrent of ultraviolet radiation. The most massive stars self-detonate as supernovas, which explode across the sky like a string of firecrackers. A foreground starburst galaxy at lower right is sculpted with hot bubbles from supernova explosions and torrential stellar winds. Unlike today there is very little dust in these galaxies, because the heavier elements have not yet been cooked up through nucleosynthesis in stars. Recent analysis of Hubble Space Telescope deep sky images supports the theory that the first stars in the universe appeared in an abrupt eruption of star formation, rather than at a gradual pace.
Topics: Big Bang, Starburst galaxy, Galaxy, Starburst region, I Zwicky 18, Spiral galaxy, Galaxy formation and evolution