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J0023+0307, a Pristine Firstborn Star?

By Hugh Ross - April 9, 2018

A new discovery of a low-mass star stands to put big bang creation on even more solid footing. In the biblically predicted big bang creation model,1 long before any stars exist, the universe contains only three elements: hydrogen, helium, and a trace amount of lithium.2 Thus, in big bang cosmology the universe’s firstborn stars will be devoid of elements heavier than lithium.

A remaining challenge to the big bang creation model is that astronomers have yet to detect a star containing no elements heavier than lithium. Several atheists and all young-earth creationist scientists refer to this lack of evidence as proof that the big bang model has failed. In Jonathan Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise, he writes,
“The total absence of these stars counts as a falsified prediction of big bang cosmology.”3

Big bang proponents give little credence to this challenge since no presently available telescope is powerful enough to detect a star devoid of elements heavier than lithium. In big bang cosmology the first stars would have formed 13.6 billion years ago.4 Thus, to observe these stars in their initial state we must measure the spectra of individual stars 13.6 billion light-years away. No telescope yet exists to measure a star’s spectrum at that distance.

Current telescopes are powerful enough, however, to detect low-mass firstborn stars well past their initial state. Unlike high-mass stars that burn out in a few million years or less, low-mass stars continue to shine for billions of years. Hence, it is possible to observe low-mass firstborn stars at relatively nearby distances.

A low-mass firstborn star that is several billion years old, though, will accrete over its several-billion-year history a small quantity of heavy elements from the interstellar medium. The ashes from the exploded remains of the supergiant firstborn stars pollute the interstellar medium.

In regions where the stellar density is high, the pollution can be so great as to make it difficult for astronomers to detect the difference between a polluted firstborn star and a relatively unpolluted second-generation star. However, for a low-mass firstborn star residing in a region where the density of stars is very low, the pollution from the interstellar medium will be so extremely low that there will be no doubt that astronomers are observing an old firstborn star rather than any kind of second-generation star.

There are no nearby regions characterized by a very low stellar density. Consequently, astronomers have discovered only a single handful of stars possessing an extremely low abundance of elements heavier than lithium.

Calculations performed by Japanese astronomers5 showed that an old firstborn star in a region of low stellar density can accumulate up to 1/100,000th as much iron per unit mass as the Sun, while it would be impossible for any kind of second-generation star to possess so little iron. The most iron-poor star discovered so far is SMSS J0313-6708. It possesses less than 3 x 10-8 as much iron as the Sun.6 This star, however, possesses measurable abundances of both carbon and magnesium. That measurable amount of carbon and magnesium led two teams of astronomers to conclude that SMSS J0313-6708 is a low-mass firstborn star that was heavily polluted by the iron-poor ejecta from a single supernova eruption of a nearby massive firstborn star.7

Now, a team of four astronomers in Spain has determined that the recently discovered star, J0023+0307, possesses both an extremely low abundance of iron and an extremely low abundance of carbon.8 J0023+0307’s iron abundance is less than 2.5 x 10-7 as much as the Sun’s and its carbon abundance less than 1,300 times as much as SMSS J0313-6708’s.

The four astronomers point out that it is likely that J0023+0307 may possess a carbon-to-iron ratio as low as the Sun’s and perhaps even lower. If J0023+0307’s carbon-to-iron ratio is the same as the Sun’s, then its total quantity of elements heavier than lithium compared to the Sun’s is less than 2.5 x 10-7. Such a low abundance of elements heavier than lithium would make J0023+0307 the most metal-poor (in astronomy, any element heavier than helium is a metal) star known. In fact, it makes J0023+0307 at least 40 times more metal-poor than any other known star.

The team of four close their research paper by appealing to other astronomers to take high-resolution spectra of J0023+0307 on the world’s largest optical telescopes. Such spectra potentially will reveal the detailed nature of J0023+0307’s abundance of elements heavier than lithium rather than simply provide strong upper limits. However, the limits the four astronomers established already leave no doubt that J0023+0307 is a firstborn star that was very lightly polluted by the interstellar medium. Hence, the so-called challenge to the biblically predicted big bang creation model has been resolved in its favor.

Featured image: J0023+0307 resides in the outer halo of the Milky Way Galaxy beyond the spiral arms. The yellow dot marks the position of the Sun. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (R. Hurt)

  1. Hugh Ross and John Rea, “Big Bang—The Bible Taught It First!” Facts for Faith (Quarter 3, 2000), 26–32, http://reasons.org/explore/publications/rtb-101/read/rtb-101/2000/06/30/big-bang-the-bible-taught-it-first.
  2. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 72–75.
  3. Jonathan Sarfati, Refuting Compromise: A Biblical and Scientific Refutation of “Progressive Creationism” (Billions of Years) As Popularized by Astronomer Hugh Ross”, 2nd ed. (Atlanta: Creation Book Publishers, 2011), 161.
  4. Judd D. Bowman et al., “An Absorption Profile Centred at 78 Megahertz in the Sky-Averaged Spectrum,” Nature 555 (March 1, 2018): 67–70, doi:10.1038/nature25792; Hugh Ross, “Signature of the Universe’s First Stars and Dark Matter,” Today’s New Reason to Believe (blog), Reasons to Believe, March 19, 2018, http://www.reasons.org/explore/blogs/todays-new-reason-to-believe/read/todays-new-reason-to-believe/2018/03/19/signature-of-the-universe-s-first-stars-and-dark-matter.
  5. Yutaka Komiya, Takuma Suda, and Masayuki Y. Fujimoto, “The Most Iron-Deficient Stars As the Polluted Population III Stars,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 808 (August 2015): doi:10.1088/2041-8205/808/2/L47.
  6. Michael S. Bessell et al., “Nucleosynthesis in a Primordial Supernova: Carbon and Oxygen Abundances in SMSS J031300.36-670839.3,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 806 (June 10, 2015): id. L16, doi:10.1088/2041-8205/806/1/L16.
  7. Bessell et al., “Nucleosynthesis in a Primordial Supernova”; David S. Aguado et al., “J0023+0307: A Mega Metal-Poor Dwarf Star from SDSS/BOSS*,” Astrophysical Journal Letters 854 (February 2018): L34, doi:10.3847/2041-8213/aaadb8.
  8. Aguado et al., “J0023+0307: A Mega Metal-Poor Dwarf Star.”

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