Bits of One Universe's First Stars Spotted
Remains of early star a 'Holy Grail' of astronomy
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2011 3:16 AM CST
Little is known about the "Dark Ages" when there were no stars and the universe contained little but hydrogen and helium gas.   (AP Photo/ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech)

(Newser) – Astronomers believe they have spotted the remains of one of the universe's very first stars—a "missing link" between the Big Bang and today's universe. The gas cloud left behind when the star exploded more than 13 billion years ago was illuminated by light emitted from a quasar, the BBC reports. Researchers believe the cloud, which contains elements in proportions very different to those found in new stars, will help them learn much more about the universe's "Dark Ages" before the first stars formed.

"The first stars have been a bit like the Holy Grail for astronomers," the lead researcher tells the BBC. "We think that they all lived very short and furious lives. They are all dead now, and there is no way for us even with the most powerful telescopes to observe them directly. What we have found is the remnants of one of these first stars to form in the universe, and the elements carbon, oxygen and iron and pristine gas in a mix that has never been seen before."