Oldest known Gas in the Universe

Astronomers have discovered pristine gas that is among the oldest forms of gases in the universe. It exists about 11 billion light years away and thought to be formed about two billion light years after big bang.

Pristine gas depiction
Pristine gas depiction

This research is done by Michele Fumagalli – an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz – and collaborators and published in the November 10th issue of the journal Science.

According to researchers, that gas has no other element except hydrogen and deuterium – heavy isotope of hydrogen. This thing gives the idea of its existence in the beginning of the universe as scientists believe that the heavy elements were not present in the beginning of the universe. Only light elements like hydrogen and helium existed at that time. Scientists hypothesized that early star came into being from these elements, some 300 million years after big bang and heavier elements, like carbon , oxygen and metals, were formed from these smaller elements.

Researchers used Keck Telescope to look at the far side of the universe. In order to study the chemical composition of the clouds, they made the use of spectrum of light coming from the background quasar to the telescope while moving from within the cloud.

Researchers have plans to work further on the environment of the clouds.


Michele Fumagalli, John M. O’Meara, J. Xavier Prochaska, (2011). Detection of Pristine Gas Two Billion Years After the Big Bang. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1213581


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