There's more to the beginning of the universe than a loud noise

9) Sun Number One

The monstrously large ball of gases whirled and flattened into a spinning disk, almost like a galaxy. It whipped into a storm, and then it ignited, and what would have been the first star burst into being. Others followed. For the first time in a while, light was being created again in the universe.

These were the first generation of stars, and they were bigger, hotter and fiercer than any since. They were the dinosaurs of space, and they gobbled up the atoms that surrounded them, growing as they ate. Their lifespan was short, but prolific, as reactions within these first generation suns resulted in the synthesis of new, heavier, more complex elements which had never existed before. The burning bodies of these ancient stars held the ingredients from which the rest of the universe would go on to be made.

After generating these brand new elements within their burning bodies, the first generation of suns also pioneered a novel way to get them out into general circulation. When the big ones died, they didn’t just fizzle out, but went with a flourish – a supernova. As they began to collapse in on themselves, the gravitational implosion was so strong that the giant ball of flame would condense onto a miniscule grey ball (a neutron star), creating a hard surface which bounced back all the extra matter with incredible force. The energy of the first supernova created yet more elements, such as oxygen and carbon, and these materials were flung far and wide, as if they were sent from exploding seed pods.

Some of these super-massive first stars may have also left behind something else in the dust of their dramatic departures, structures we can’t directly see because their mass is so powerful light itself can’t escape their grip. Black holes. Silently, they would have anchored themselves down, sucking in passing matter, and growing.

Next: The Inflation


The early stars were bright but lifeless