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Galaxy group 13 billion light-years away could be ending the cosmic 'Dark Ages' before our eyes

This illustrated map of the universe shows galaxy group EGS77 clearing away the cosmic fog of the early universe, some 13 billion years ago
This illustrated map of the universe shows galaxy group EGS77 clearing away the cosmic fog of the early universe, some 13 billion years ago.
(Image: © NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)

For hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang, the entire universe was a thick soup of hydrogen atoms swimming in total blackness. So dense was this cosmic goulash that the first light from the first stars in existence couldn't penetrate it — the hydrogen fog simply absorbed and scattered the starlight in circles, trapping the universe in a cosmic dark age as ever more stars, galaxies and black holes slowly smoldered to life. 

That all changed after about 500 million years, when a grand cosmic makeover called the epoch of reionization began. As ancient galaxies grew ever larger and radiated more powerful energy, they began to burn away the cosmic fog that surrounded them by splitting (or ionizing) hydrogen atoms into a plasma of free protons and electrons. Suddenly, light could travel across the cosmos — first through "bubbles" of plasma surrounding large galaxies, then farther and farther as multiple bubbles began to expand and overlap. 

Now, for the first time, astronomers believe they've detected three of those fog-clearing bubbles hard at work reshaping the universe in a group of galaxies 13 billion light-years away. 

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In a study that was presented this week at the American Astronomical Society conference in Honolulu and submitted for publication in a forthcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal, an international team of astronomers identified a trio of faraway galaxies that seem to be radiating some of the earliest light ever observed. The galaxy group, named EGS77, dates to approximately 680 million years after the Big Bang (roughly 5% of the universe's current age of 13.8 billion years) and appears to be surrounded by three overlapping bubbles of plasma — meaning these pioneering galaxies may have been caught in the act of reionizing their corner of the universe and bringing the cosmic dark ages to an end.

"EGS77 has formed a large bubble that allows its light to travel to Earth," study co-author Vithal Tilvi, a researcher at Arizona State University, said in a statement. "Eventually, bubbles like these grew around all galaxies and filled intergalactic space, reionizing the universe and clearing the way for light to travel across the cosmos."

To find these ancient fog-clearing galaxies, the researchers surveyed a small section of space for the precise wavelength of ultraviolet light emitted by the earliest stars, also known as Lyman-alpha emissions. The light begins at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometers but, after traveling for billions of years across the expanding universe, slowly stretches out into the near-infrared range (700 nanometers to 1 millimeter), which is easier to detect with Earth telescopes.

The survey turned up three overlapping specks of space that seemed to be emitting the exact wavelengths typical of ancient stars ionizing their surroundings. The team compared these observations with data from two other telescopes and confirmed the galaxies were about 13 billion light-years away, making them the farthest galaxy group ever detected and placing them right on the frontier of the epoch of reionization. 

"EGS77 is the first galaxy group caught in the act of clearing out this cosmic fog," study co-author James Rhoads of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in the statement.

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • rod
    Admin said:
    Three galaxies 13 billion light-years may be ending the cosmic 'dark ages' before our eyes.

    Galaxy group 13 billion light-years away could be ending the cosmic 'Dark Ages' before our eyes : Read more

    "This illustrated map of the universe shows galaxy group EGS77 clearing away the cosmic fog of the early universe, some 13 billion years ago."

    This is a very interesting, detailed study using spectra and determining the redshift, z=7.7. The Friedman-Lematrie model for the expanding universe can be found at these cosmology calculators, https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/help/cosmology_calc.html
    A very detailed report is found here too, Onset of Cosmic Reionization: Evidence of An Ionized Bubble Merely 680 Myrs after the Big Bang
    The Abstract reports, "While most of the inter-galactic medium (IGM) today is permeated by ionized hydrogen, it was largely filled with neutral hydrogen for the first 700 million years after the Big Bang. The process that ionized the IGM (cosmic reionization) is expected to be spatially inhomogeneous, with fainter galaxies playing a significant role. However, we still have only a few direct constraints on the reionization process. Here we report the first spectroscopic confirmation of two galaxies and very likely a third galaxy in a group (hereafter EGS77) at redshift z = 7.7, merely 680 Myrs after the Big Bang. The physical separation among the three members is < 0.7 Mpc. We estimate the radius of ionized bubble of the brightest galaxy to be about 1.02 Mpc, and show that the individual ionized bubbles formed by all three galaxies likely overlap significantly, forming a large yet localized ionized region, which leads to the spatial inhomogeneity in the reionization process. It is striking that two of three galaxies in EGS77 are quite faint in the continuum, thanks to our selection of reionizing sources using their Lyman-alpha line emission. Indeed, one is the faintest spectroscopically confirmed galaxy yet discovered at such high redshifts. Our observations provide direct constraints in the process of cosmic reionization, and allow us to investigate the properties of sources responsible for reionizing the universe. "

    The Abstract also contains the large, arXiv full report too. Impressive spectroscopic work to determine z=7.7 and Einstein GR using the Friedman-Lematrie metrics for distance in the expanding universe model. At z=7.7, the look back time distance is some 13E+9 light years distance but the objects actual distance in the Big Bang model is some 29.521E+9 light years distance according to the F-L metric based upon Einstein GR.
    Reply
  • jeremywales801
    Admin said:
    Three galaxies 13 billion light-years may be ending the cosmic 'dark ages' before our eyes.

    Galaxy group 13 billion light-years away could be ending the cosmic 'Dark Ages' before our eyes : Read more
    Goodbye Cosmic Dark Ages. 💜🌹🕊🦄💎💫🌕🤸‍♂️🌠✨
    Reply
  • Truthseeker007
    So if we can look one way into the past why isn't it possible to look the other way into the future? It is now verifiable that the present and past go on at the same time. Well the light is still there from the past then we should be also able to look into the future where the light passed us by.
    Reply
  • jeremywales801
    Truthseeker007 said:
    So if we can look one way into the past why isn't it possible to look the other way into the future? It is now verifiable that the present and past go on at the same time. Well the light is still there from the past then we should be also able to look into the future where the light passed us by.
    I live in the present. I think your answer may lie with quantum physics, however. Then, yes we should be able to.
    Reply
  • Truthseeker007
    jeremywales801 said:
    I live in the present. I think your answer may lie with quantum physics, however. Then, yes we should be able to.

    I do love what quantum physics is finding. Well even in astrology, psychics and tarot reading are able to tap into future times or into the energy they see happening in the future. I think the one problem with future is if their are an infinite amount of timelines. Say you built a time machine that goes to the future. How would you even know which timeline this timeline is on?
    Reply
  • rod
    As I already commented about this report and 13 billion years, light-time, look back distance. The Abstract also contains the large, arXiv full report too. Impressive spectroscopic work to determine z=7.7 and Einstein GR using the Friedmann-Lematrie (F-L) metrics for distance in the expanding universe model. At z=7.7, the look back time distance is some 13E+9 light years but the objects actual distance in the Big Bang model is some 29.521E+9 light years distance according to the F-L metric based upon Einstein GR."

    The z number of 7.7 determined look back distance is based upon the cosmological redshift model using Einstein GR and Special Relativity for light-time. The expansion of space uses Einstein GR, the Hubble constant, and Hubble Time for when the Big Bang event took place, considered about 13.8E+9 billion years ago. In the Big Bang model, the comoving radial distance of this target can exist immensely farther away still, not visible currently to telescopes on Earth, because of light-time according to Special Relativity. Astronomy discovered light-time to Earth in the 1670s while observing and measuring eclipse events of the Galilean moons at Jupiter. This discovery lead to Einstein Special Relativity used today in astronomy and cosmology.
    Reply
  • awakeningskeptic77
    rod said:
    "This illustrated map of the universe shows galaxy group EGS77 clearing away the cosmic fog of the early universe, some 13 billion years ago."

    This is a very interesting, detailed study using spectra and determining the redshift, z=7.7. The Friedman-Lematrie model for the expanding universe can be found at these cosmology calculators, https://ned.ipac.caltech.edu/help/cosmology_calc.html
    A very detailed report is found here too, Onset of Cosmic Reionization: Evidence of An Ionized Bubble Merely 680 Myrs after the Big Bang
    The Abstract reports, "While most of the inter-galactic medium (IGM) today is permeated by ionized hydrogen, it was largely filled with neutral hydrogen for the first 700 million years after the Big Bang. The process that ionized the IGM (cosmic reionization) is expected to be spatially inhomogeneous, with fainter galaxies playing a significant role. However, we still have only a few direct constraints on the reionization process. Here we report the first spectroscopic confirmation of two galaxies and very likely a third galaxy in a group (hereafter EGS77) at redshift z = 7.7, merely 680 Myrs after the Big Bang. The physical separation among the three members is < 0.7 Mpc. We estimate the radius of ionized bubble of the brightest galaxy to be about 1.02 Mpc, and show that the individual ionized bubbles formed by all three galaxies likely overlap significantly, forming a large yet localized ionized region, which leads to the spatial inhomogeneity in the reionization process. It is striking that two of three galaxies in EGS77 are quite faint in the continuum, thanks to our selection of reionizing sources using their Lyman-alpha line emission. Indeed, one is the faintest spectroscopically confirmed galaxy yet discovered at such high redshifts. Our observations provide direct constraints in the process of cosmic reionization, and allow us to investigate the properties of sources responsible for reionizing the universe. "

    The Abstract also contains the large, arXiv full report too. Impressive spectroscopic work to determine z=7.7 and Einstein GR using the Friedman-Lematrie metrics for distance in the expanding universe model. At z=7.7, the look back time distance is some 13E+9 light years distance but the objects actual distance in the Big Bang model is some 29.521E+9 light years distance according to the F-L metric based upon Einstein GR.


    Ok I'm a lil confused here. You are saying that before this IONIZATION creating bubbles in which allows for the travel of light and lightspeed thruought the universe. Or galaxy by galaxy...... My question is this were we once (earth) our solar system surrounded by this thick hydrogen ? Would space travel be easier wtithout this bubble..?? Where did all that. "fog" or hydrogen disappear to ?
    Thank you for your time
    Reply
  • rod
    awakeningskeptic77 said:
    Ok I'm a lil confused here. You are saying that before this IONIZATION creating bubbles in which allows for the travel of light and lightspeed thruought the universe. Or galaxy by galaxy...... My question is this were we once (earth) our solar system surrounded by this thick hydrogen ? Would space travel be easier wtithout this bubble..?? Where did all that. "fog" or hydrogen disappear to ?
    Thank you for your time

    My observation - The space.com report showed a diagram for the history of the universe – according to the Big Bang model and said:

    “This illustrated map of the universe shows galaxy group EGS77 clearing away the cosmic fog of the early universe, some 13 billion years ago. (Image: © NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center) For hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang, the entire universe was a thick soup of hydrogen atoms swimming in total blackness. So dense was this cosmic goulash that the first light from the first stars in existence couldn't penetrate it — the hydrogen fog simply absorbed and scattered the starlight in circles, trapping the universe in a cosmic dark age as ever more stars, galaxies and black holes slowly smoldered to life. That all changed after about 500 million years, when a grand cosmic makeover called the epoch of reionization began. As ancient galaxies grew ever larger and radiated more powerful energy, they began to burn away the cosmic fog that surrounded them by splitting (or ionizing) hydrogen atoms into a plasma of free protons and electrons. Suddenly, light could travel across the cosmos — first through "bubbles" of plasma surrounding large galaxies, then farther and farther as multiple bubbles began to expand and overlap…To find these ancient fog-clearing galaxies, the researchers surveyed a small section of space for the precise wavelength of ultraviolet light emitted by the earliest stars, also known as Lyman-alpha emissions. The light begins at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometers but, after traveling for billions of years across the expanding universe, slowly stretches out into the near-infrared range (700 nanometers to 1 millimeter), which is easier to detect with Earth telescopes.”

    My observation - According to the diagram shown and 0.34-minute video illustrating the history of the universe according to the Big Bang model – there is no earth or solar system during this period of the expanding universe. The hydrogen is still in the universe according to the Big Bang model – spread out and recycled into new stars, for example M42 in Orion. The interpretation for EGS77 redshift z=7.7 and light years distance is based upon the Big Bang model and cosmological redshift model.
    Reply