A faint blue galaxy about 30 million light-years from Earth and located in the constellation Leo Minor could shed new light on conditions at the birth of the universe.
Astronomers at Indiana University recently found that a galaxy nicknamed Leoncino or ” little lion” contains the lowest level of heavy chemical elements or “metals” ever observed in a gravitationally bound system of stars.
Co-author John J. Salzer said that finding the most metal-poor galaxy ever is exciting since it could help contribute to a quantitative test of the Big Bang. There are relatively few ways to explore conditions at the birth of the universe, but low-metal galaxies are among the most promising.
This is because the current accepted model of the start of the universe makes clear predictions about the amount of helium and hydrogen present during the Big Bang and the ratio of these atoms in metal-poor galaxies provides a direct test of the model.
“Low metal abundance is essentially a sign that very little stellar activity has taken place compared to most galaxies,” lead author Alec S. Hirschauer said.
“We’re eager to continue to explore this mysterious galaxy,” said Salzer, adding “Low-metal-abundance galaxies are extremely rare, so we want to learn everything we can.”
The study appears in Astrophysical Journal.