Western astronomers model luminous star clusters of the early universe

Alex DeSouza (left) and Shantanu Basu

 Alex DeSouza and Shantanu Basu

Models of the early universe made by Western astronomers show a period in which the very first stars could have formed into small, chaotic, superluminous clusters.

The work is by Shantanu Basu and his former doctoral student Alexander DeSouza. The paper is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2018, it will point its infrared detectors towards objects in the early universe.  The models by Basu and DeSouza indicate that the early universe may have contained small clusters of stars which, through accretion burst activity, could have reach luminosities on the order of 100 million times that of our Sun. These clusters may potentially be visible to the Webb telescope.

In Shantanu Basu's words, "Seeing the very first stars is a key science goal for JWST and part of astronomers’ quest to track the history of the cosmos. If we’re right, then in just a few years’ time, we could see these enigmatic and dazzlingly bright objects as they came into being, and lit up the universe around them.”

[R.A.S. press release]  [astrobites article] [Western media release]

Image credit for below: Shantanu Basu, The University of Western Ontario

The early universe artwork - Shantanu Basu