First Stars Not Monstrous

According to new simulations performed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., the very first stars in our universe were not the behemoths scientists had once thought. Astronomers grew stars in their computers, mimicking the conditions of our primordial universe. The simulations took weeks. When the scientists’ concoctions were finally done, they were shocked by the results, because of the full-grown stars were much smaller than expected. The new research shows they are only tens of times the mass of sun, for example, the simulations produced one star that was as little as 43 solar masses. The team’s simulations reveal that matter in the vicinity of the forming stars heats up to higher temperatures than previously believed, as high as  50,000 Kelvin (90,000 degrees Fahrenheit), or 8.5 times the surface temperature of the sun.

Gas this hot expands and escapes the gravity of the developing star, instead of falling back down onto it. This means the stars stop growing earlier than predicted, reaching smaller final sizes. The new results also help to answer an enigma regarding the first stellar explosions, called supernovae. Because the first stars weren’t as massive as previously thought, they would have blown up in a manner akin to the types of stellar explosions that we see today.

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