“For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” –Vincent Van Gogh
When we look out into the Universe, farther back to greater distances, we’re also looking back in time, farther and farther into the past. If we could look back far enough, close enough to the Big Bang, we’d be able to see the very first stars ever formed in the Universe: stars formed from the Big Bang’s leftover material itself.
We’d never been able to find these before, but by looking at a starburst galaxy at extremely high redshifts, and measuring its signature spectroscopically, we were able to find strong evidence of hydrogen and helium, but none of carbon, oxygen, or any of the other “first-processed” elements we’d expect had we formed stars before. Is this the first true “Population III” sample in the Universe, or are we fooling ourselves?