UVic "galactic archeologists" try to answer what the early universe looked like

Astronomers with the University of Victoria are collaberating with an international team to answer the question of what the universe looked like moments after the Big Bang, prior to the Earth's existence, our solar system, and before most elements were formed.

The Galactic archeologists will attempt to answer that question through the "Pristine survey - a search for ancient stars."

Kim Venn, director of UVic's Astronomy Research Centre (ARC) says it's like studying the fossil record,  except with stars of different generations, which help scientists understand the history of our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

In a recent publication the team reported on the discovery of one of the most metal-poor stars known. It was found in the the Milky Way and has a pristine atmosphere -- meaning it's largely devoid of heavy elements, such as metals and even carbon.

It's only the second known star of its kind, according to UVic postdoctoral fellow Else Starkenburg, who co-led the study from the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in Germany. Starkenburg says the qualities mark it as an important messenger from the early universe.

The study includes a significant number of UVic researchers, students and adjunct scientists, including UVic professor Julio Navarro, graduate student Collin Kielty, former undergraduate student Kris Youakim, as well as ARC members and adjunct professors from the National Research Council’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Institute, Patrick Cote and Alan McConnachie..

The team used the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Hawaii with a special colour filter designed for the Pristine survey in the initial discovery of the ancient star.



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