Science & Tech

Lifeless suns dominated early universe

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Window for life opened only recently, astronomically speaking

The very first generation of stars were not at all like our Sun. They were white-hot, massive stars that were very short-lived. Burning for only a few million years, they collapsed and exploded as brilliant supernovae. Those very first stars began the seeding process in the universe, spreading vital elements like carbon and oxygen, which served as planetary building blocks. This picture of the early universe comes from new calculations by Harvard astronomers Volker Bromm and Abraham Loeb (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics). The researchers have shown that the first Sun-like stars were lonely orbs moving through a universe devoid of planets or life. “The window for life opened sometime between 500 million and 2 billion years after the Big Bang” says Loeb. “Billions of years ago, the first low-mass stars were lonely places. The reason for that youthful solitude is embedded in the history of our universe.” “Life is a recent phenomenon,” Loeb states unequivocally. “We know that it took many supernova explosions to make all the heavy elements we find here on Earth and in our Sun and our bodies.” This research was published in the October 23, 2003, issue of the scientific journal Nature.