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How exploding stars and black holes sowed early cosmos with iron

Last Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 15:34

Washington: Astrophysicists by detecting an even distribution of iron throughout a massive galaxy cluster can reveal how exploding stars and black holes sowed the early cosmos with heavy elements.

Young stars, exploding supernovae, and active black holes produced powerful winds 10 billion to 12 billion years ago, which were the spoon that lifted the iron from the galaxies and mixed it with the intergalactic gas.

New evidence that iron is spread evenly between the galaxies in one of the largest galaxy clusters in the universe supports the theory that the universe underwent a turbulent and violent youth more than 10 billion years ago.

That explosive period was responsible for seeding the cosmos with iron and other heavy elements that are critical to life itself.

Researchers from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology ( KIPAC ), jointly run by Stanford University and the Department of Energy`s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, shed light on this important era by analyzing 84 sets of X-ray telescope observations from the Japanese-US Suzaku satellite.

In particular, the researchers looked at iron distribution throughout the Perseus cluster, a large grouping of galaxies about 250 million light-years away.

Lead author Norbert Werner said that they saw that iron is spread out between the galaxies remarkably smoothly, which means it had to be present in the intergalactic gas before the Perseus cluster formed.

The even distribution of these elements supports the idea that they were created at least 10 billion to 12 billion years ago. According to the paper, during this time of intense star formation, billions of exploding stars created vast quantities of heavy elements in the alchemical furnaces of their own destruction. This was also the epoch when black holes in the hearts of galaxies were at their most energetic.

The findings have been published in the journal Nature.

First Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 - 15:34
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