The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the Australian equivalent to NASA, has been using the Australia Telescope Compact Array (ATCA) radio telescope to detect the raw material used for making the first stars in galaxies that formed when the Universe was just three billion years old.
ATCA, located near Narrabri, NSW, is one of the only telescopes in the world that can perform this type of detection. The radio telescope has both the sensitive and it is tuned to the right wavelengths to detect the raw material scientists are interested in finding.
ATCA has been looking for cold molecular hydrogen gas, H2. It is believed that this gas is the raw material for making stars. Making things even more difficult, H2 can’t be detected directly but only by observing a ‘tracer’ gas, carbon monoxide (CO), that emits radio waves indicating the present of H2.
Scientists have been using ATCA to study a massive, distant structure, called the Spiderweb, that is more than ten thousand million light-years away (10,000,000,000,000ly).
One team of scientists found at least sixty thousand million (60,000,000,000) solar masses of cold molecular hydrogen gas over a quarter of a million light-years (250,000ly), speculate that the cold molecular hydrogen is the star forming fuel for the region. They also estimate that there is enough hydrogen in the region to form stars for the next 40 million years.
Using ACTA and the newly operational Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope in Chile, scientists can look for more of the H2 and make new discoveries from the distant past of the Universe.
– Ex astris, scientia –
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