Astronomers say Draco's glow is the beginning of time

Astronomers have seen the beginning of time, using a space telescope that may have captured the primordial light from the first stars that formed after the Big Bang.

The latest images from Nasa's Spitzer telescope are thought to be the murky light given off by the first objects to form in the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

An infrared camera on the Spitzer took pictures of the constellation Draco and scientists masked out all stars and galaxies to reveal the background glow from the first stars.

Researchers from Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre in Greenland, Maryland, compared the observations to the glow of city lights at night from an aircraft; the light is too feeble and too distant to resolve individual features.

"We think we are seeing the collective light from millions of the first objects to form in the universe," said Alexander Kashlinsky, the leader of the Nasa study in the journal Nature. "The objects disappeared aeons ago, yet their light is still travelling across the universe."

Cosmologists estimate that the Big Bang was 13.7 billion years ago. Some 200 million years passed after this act of creation before the first stars began to form from cosmic particles and dust. Scientists believe these stars were likely to have been more than 100 times more massive than the Sun, and would have been hot, bright and relatively short-lived, each surviving a few million years compared to the billions of years of conventional stars.

Theorists predicted that the light from these primordial stars would be "stretched" by the expansion of the universe, so would exist not on the ultraviolet region of the spectrum but in the lower energies of the infrared region.

John Mather, a senior project scientist on the Spitzer telescope, said the aim was to capture all infrared light emanating from a region in the deep Draco constellation and process the data to remove light from more recent objects. "We were left with a picture of part of the sky with no stars or galaxies, but it sill had this infrared glow with giant blobs that we think could be the glow from the very first stars," Dr Mather said.

The images could be the first pictures of so-called "population III" stars that were hypothesised as being formed soon after the Big Bang. Population I and II stars are known to exist.

In the early 1990s, another satellite, the Cosmic Background Explorer (Cobe), found all-pervasive microwave radiation in space thought to be the "echo" of the Big Bang.

Nasa said the latest findings from the Spitzer agree with the Cobe results, which had suggested that an infrared background would be found that could not be attributed to the known stars.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam