The mysteries of the earliest cosmos have become a more clear thanks to research compiled by a group including MSU researcher Brian O’Shea.
“I study how galaxies are built,” said O’Shea, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy. “Sort of from the big bang up to nowadays.”
O’Shea worked with Matthew Turk and Tom Abel from Stanford’s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology to develop high resolution computer simulations of star formations to better understand the universe in its early stages. The research compiled by the group was published Thursday on the Journal Science’s Web site, Science Express.
“For a long time people thought these early stars were gigantic, you know, hundreds of times more massive than our sun,” O’Shea said. “We spent months simulating these things and we did a much better job than anybody else has ever done, and so what we found was that these stars actually are probably much, much smaller.”
O’Shea said that during billions of years, galaxies change, and that he wants to understand what the early universe was like.
“We’re looking at the formation of what are called Population III stars and so these are the first stars that formed in the universe,” O’Shea said.
Matthew Turk, a recent graduate of Stanford’s graduate program in physics and co-author of the paper, said the group’s findings are significant not only because of the information gained but because of the possibility of future knowledge from conducting even more simulations.
“There’s still a lot more that we can learn in the study about these stars,” Turk said. “It’s not really a solved problem. We don’t know how … that first spark of stars ignited, and we still have a lot to learn about that.”
Turk said the group used better computers with higher resolution and more advanced simulations, and by conducting more simulations, they were able to draw from a greater sampling size and learn more about different possibilities.
“In the past, all the simulations have only ever shown one star forming and now we see that it’s not the only way that it can go,” Turk said.
Timothy Beers, an MSU professor of physics an astronomy, said O’Shea’s involvement in the research is beneficial for MSU.
“What this enables MSU to do is to expand the awareness of the astronomical and physical community worldwide about the importance of the research that’s going on here,” Beers said.
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