Scientists say they have observed a signature on the sky from the very first stars to shine in the Universe.
They did it with the aid of a small radio telescope in the Australian outback that was tuned to detect the earliest ever evidence for hydrogen.
This hydrogen was in a state that could only be explained if it had been touched by the intense light of stars.
The team puts the time of this interaction at a mere 180 million years after the Big Bang.
Given that the cosmos is roughly 13.8 billion years old, it means the first stars lit up a full nine billion years before even our own Sun flickered into life.
Dr Judd Bowman of Arizona State University, US, is the lead author on the scholarly paper describing the observation in the journal Nature.
He told BBC News that the discovery’s great significance meant his group had to be absolutely sure no mistakes were made.
“We first started seeing signs in our data back in late 2015. And we’ve really spent the last couple of years trying to think of all sorts of possible alternative explanations, and then rule them out one by one,” he said.
“This is the first time any team has been able to present evidence for the detection of this signal and hopefully it will go down as a milestone for this type of astrophysical observation.”
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Source: BBC News