A trio of astrophysicists, two from Colgate University and the third from the University of Texas, has found possible evidence of dark stars, courtesy of data from the James Webb Space Telescope. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cosmin Ilie, Jillian Pauline and Katherine Freese, describe their study of data surrounding three galaxies spotted by the JWST and how they might relate to dark stars.
Back in 2007, the same research trio proposed the idea of a dark star—a star that, unlike all those that have been observed to date and are powered by nuclear fusion, would instead be powered by dark matter. Since that time, the team has continued to study the idea of such a star and have been building models to show what they might look like. In so doing, they derived a list of characteristics that such a star might have. And now they have found three candidates that fit the bill.
Dark stars, the team suggests, likely could have been born during the early days of the universe—like other stars, they would have been made mostly of helium and hydrogen. But they would also have some dark matter in them—enough to provide a heat source. Such stars would not then be lit by nuclear fusion. If such stars did exist, the team continues, they would be a lot bigger than the other types of stars that have been observed—so big that they might look like galaxies from Earth-based telescopes.
In this new effort, the research trio analyzed data from the JWST describing three galaxies, JADES-GS-z11, z12 and z13-0 and in so doing, found they conformed very strongly to the characteristics they had described for dark stars, adding a lot of credence to their theory. Also helping to bolster their theory is that the three galaxies do not fit with theory surrounding traditional galaxies.
Another part of the theory the team developed suggested that as dark stars age, they would eventually collapse down to supermassive black holes—a theory that helps to explain why there are so many black holes in the universe. It would also explain why dark stars have not been seen until now—space scientists have lacked the tools necessary to see far enough back in time until the deployment of the JWST.
Cosmin Ilie et al, Supermassive Dark Star candidates seen by JWST, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2305762120
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James Webb Space Telescope finds possible evidence of dark stars (2023, July 13)
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