There was a time in the Universe before we formed stars. Here’s how we’re exploring it.
When we look out at the Universe today, we see that it’s full of stars and galaxies. And yet, we can only see those stars and galaxies because the space between those galaxies and ourselves doesn’t block that starlight before it gets to our instruments, observatories, telescopes, and eyes. But early on, that’s an enormous problem: there is light-blocking gas and dust, and the record-holder for most distant galaxy ever discovered is still not a pristine, first-generation galaxy at all.
But there are new observatories and cutting-edge techniques that will reveal them, teaching us how the Universe grew up: from a collection of neutral atoms with no stars and galaxies at all to the structure-rich Universe we see today. Joining me on this special, bonus edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast (because don’t we all need a bonus?) is extragalactic astronomer and PhD candidate Rebecca Larson from the University of Texas — Austin, in a rich conversation that takes us all the way back to the edge of the Universe as we can observe it.