by Rich Sherman
First Light: Switching on the Stars at the Dawn of Time by Emma Chapman
Hardback $23.40 on Amazon
Award-winning astrophysicist Dr. Emma Chapman (Imperial College, London) just published “First Light: Switching on the Stars at the Dawn of Time” earlier this year. In the book, she reveals there is no observational evidence of the first “Population III” stars that lit up the universe for the first time approximately 380 million to 1 billion years after the Big Bang. Her research on this subject is challenging, since the overwhelming percentage of Population III stars were high mass, short-lived metal free gems that, upon their death, gave life to new stars, heavier elements, and life on Earth. And yet, astronomers believe the first generation of stars must also have included low mass, long-lived stars that should still be burning today. This book discusses how and why we are searching for these elusive stars. The author adds a bit of humor along the way to lighten, what at times, becomes a bit technical and dry.
“First Light” is an interesting book that opened my eyes to dwarf galaxies (e.g., Segue 1), the Sagittarius Stream, and astroarchealogy. In a hopeful note, Dr. Chapman tells us that the lower mass Population III stars shine for approximately 16 billion years. This gives us a couple billion years to discover these hard-to-find relics of the early universe—my only question is: is that enough time?