Ending The Dark Ages: The Universe's First Stars

by · Nov 17, 2015 · 904 views ·

Our Universe is 14 billion years of age, and has generally been filled with stars and starlight. We here on Earth orbit one such star, which has been shining brightly for almost 5 billion years. But what about the "first" star? How did it form? What did it look like? What was the Universe like when this star started bringing the Universe from a place of darkness to one filled with starlight? In this talk, we will explore how stars form and evolve, and how their environments play a significant role in their development. We will then look especially at the Universe half a billion years after the Big Bang, when these first stars began to form. We now believe that these first stars were thousands to millions of times brighter than our own Sun, but live for less than a few million years. Nonetheless these stars played a significant role in the development and evolution of the Universe, as well as the eventual development of intelligent life. Aaron Lee is a graduate student astronomer and dissertation fellow at the University of California Berkeley. His research focuses on the formation and evolution of both stars and planets across all of cosmic time, as well as the pedagogical methods used in teaching undergraduates and graduate level astronomy courses. Currently, Aaron is researching the formation of the first stars ever to form in our Universe. Aaron researches the formation of planets and stars using some of the most powerful supercomputers in the world, often utilizing thousands of individual computers working simultaneously to simulate the flow of gas and radiation over millions of years. Using these computers, Aaron sifts through hundreds of terabytes of data in order to complete his research, which has been published in leading astronomical journals.