"In order for us to follow the chain of events responsible for how we got here, we need to understand the beginning," says Daniel Wolf Savin, a senior research scientist in Columbia University's Astrophysics Laboratory. The work of Savin and his collaborators is published in, "Experimental Results for H2 Formation from H- and H and Implications for First Star Formation" in the July 2nd edition of the journal Science.
This is the apparatus used by researchers in the lab to simulate the chemistry of the early universe (not your typical telescope).
Credit: Daniel Wolf Savin, Columbia University
"I'm excited to have worked on such a challenging inter-disciplinary problem with an international cast of stars," said Savin. "To discern the importance of the reaction at the very beginning required a cosmologist who understood the physics of first star formation and a physicist who understood the underlying chemical reactions. Together, Cosmologist Simon Glover of the University of Heidleberg and I were able to identify the key chemical reactions that needed to be better understood so that we could more reliably model the formation of the first stars.
"Once we determined what needed to be studied, then the question became one of how. We assembled the necessary expertise and experimentalists to build a novel apparatus to measure the reaction. I did this work with colleagues Holger Kreckel Hjalmar Bruhns and Ken Miller from Columbia, and Xavier Urbain from the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. But measuring the reaction was not enough. We also needed to calculate it. Theoretical Physicist Martin Cizek from Charles University in Prague did just that."
Financial support for this work comes in part from the National Science Foundation Division of Chemistry and Division of Astronomical Sciences.
View a webcast with Daniel Wolf Savin of Columbia University.
Sources: National Science Foundation