Ken Croswell of Science magazine paints a vivid picture of what the cosmos was like and is like today. He points out that the universe was born in a hot state of affairs starting off as a conglomeration of electrons and positively charged protons and helium nuclei. When the universe grew it got so much cooler, around 380,000 years after the Big Bang, that the electrons and protons mixed and paired up thus creating neutral hydrogen atoms. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe.
These free floating hydrogen atoms then absorbed extreme ultraviolet light radiated from the earliest stars. A few hundred million years later the radiation from the growing herds of stars and galaxies tore the electrons from the protons however as of yet how this was done remains a mystery. That was until a new paper that twas published online for the journal Science by researchers Sanchayeeta Borthakur from Johns Hopkins University utilized the Hubble Space Telescope to look at and identify one unusual galaxy named SDSS J0921+4509 that they feel should provide them with more data on how this process of ripping protons from electrons happened.
The researchers discovered that this particular galaxy releases extremely large amounts of extreme ultraviolet radiation that normally is blocked by dust or is sponged up by neutral hydrogen gas. After measuring the amount of ultraviolet light and other light wavelengths they discovered that SDSS J0921+4509 had what’s referred to as an escape fraction of 21%. Researchers noted that that number was high. It’s a number they believe is common to all galaxies during the early part of the universe in order to ionize the hydrogen into what is referred to as the intergalactic medium.
Therefore during these conditions the researchers looked for similar conditions as those of the early universe. In the Johns Hopkins’ “HUB”, a news network the astronomers state that reionization is at the center of the history of the universe and marks the way the very first star and galaxies were born. This time the researchers using the telescope’s spectrograph found just the right galaxy to study.