Oldest dust ever spotted in the universe seen in distant galaxy

Apr 3, 2017

By Shannon Hall

The early universe was filthy. That much can be garnered from a new detection of cosmic dust in a galaxy whose light reaches us from when the universe was only 600 million years old.

In the past 10 years, astronomers have learned that dust is forged during the aftermath of the supernova deaths of massive, short-lived stars. But many mysteries surround dust’s origin. Astronomers, for example, don’t know how dust can withstand the violent shockwaves from supernovae and precisely how long it takes to form.

With that in mind, Nicolas Laporte at University College London and his colleagues turned ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, towards the early universe. They studied a star-forming galaxy called A2744_YD4, whose light dates back to just 200 million years after the birth of the earliest stars.

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