A telescope has found key chemical fingerprints of supermassive stars, hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang.
Live Science reports that evidence of the 'celestial monster' stars the size of 10,000 suns were picked up by the James Webb Space Telescope lurking at the dawn of time.
Researchers published their findings May 5 in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. "Today, thanks to the data collected by the James Webb Space Telescope, we believe we have found a first clue of the presence of these extraordinary stars," lead study author Corinne Charbonnel, an astronomy professor at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, said in a statement.
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The researchers found chemical traces of the stars inside densely packed clusters of stars called globular clusters.
Some of the stars in these globular clusters have differing proportions of elements despite coming from the same source at the same time.
But researchers put this down to the existence of supermassive stars which would have produced heavier elements that subsequently polluted smaller infant stars.
Live Science reported that these stars burned at temperatures of 135 million degrees Fahrenheit (75 million degrees Celsius), ultimately meeting their demise because they burn faster.
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"Globular clusters are between 10 and 13 billion years old, whereas the maximum lifespan of superstars is two million years. They therefore disappeared very early from the clusters that are currently observable. Only indirect traces remain," co-author Mark Gieles, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Barcelona, said in the statement.
A camera was focussed on "one of the most distant and ancient galaxies ever discovered" to pinpoint these stars, and researchers discovered that the tightly-packed stars were surrounded by high levels of nitrogen.
"The strong presence of nitrogen can only be explained by the combustion of hydrogen at extremely high temperatures, which only the core of supermassive stars can reach," Charbonnel said.
Researchers plan to delve deep into different globular clusters in the galaxy for more clues.
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