Astronomers Have Discovered the Oldest Stars Ever Seen in Our Galaxy

Cosmology studies suggest that the first stars did not appear until 100 million years after the Big Bang. Scientists have recently discovered stars at the center of the galaxy that they believe are not only more ancient than the approximately 13.2-billion-year-old Milky Way, but may be among the oldest objects ever discovered. 

Documented in a Nature article published earlier this week, the discovery was made by a team of astronomers using the Australian National University SkyMapper telescope. The team included ANU Ph.D. student Louise Howes, who explains in the video above that the lack of metals in the atmosphere of the stars is one reason they suspect the stars are very old. The early universe was composed of hydrogen, helium, and small amounts of lithium; all other elements were created later in the supernova explosions of stars.

"We expected them to be lacking in metals, but we also found that they were lacking in elements such as carbon and magnesium," Howes says. Those elements would have come from "pollution" caused by older exploded stars. Because these stars lack those elements, they appear to be quite ancient. "The relatively small stars, for some reason, had 10 times the amount of energy that we would expect, and exploded in what we call a 'hypernova,'" she said. The hypernova would have released a lot of other elements, like iron and nickel, but not much carbon or magnesium.

Their proximity to the center of the galaxy was another clue, because it's thought the first stars formed at the galaxy center, where the effects of gravity are the strongest. 

"The chemical signature imprinted on those stars tells us about an epoch in the universe that's otherwise completely inaccessible," said study co-author Andrew Casey, of Cambridge University's Institute of Astronomy, in a press statement. "The universe was probably very different early on, but to know by how much, we've really just got to find more of these stars: more needles in bigger haystacks."

arrow
Afternoon Map
The Most Popular Infomercial Product in Each State

You don't have to pay $19.95 plus shipping and handling to discover the most popular infomercial product in each state: AT&T retailer All Home Connections is giving that information away for free via a handy map.

The map was compiled by cross-referencing the top-grossing infomercial products of all time with Google Trends search interest from the past calendar year. So, which crazy products do people order most from their TVs?

Folks in Arizona know that it's too hot there to wear layers; that's why they invest in the Cami Secret—a clip-on, mock top that gives them the look of a camisole without all the added fabric. No-nonsense New Yorkers are protecting themselves from identity theft with the RFID-blocking Aluma wallet. Delaware's priorities are all sorted out, because tons of its residents are still riding the Snuggie wave. Meanwhile, Vermont has figured out that Pajama Jeans are the way to go—because who needs real pants?

Unsurprisingly, the most popular product in many states has to do with fitness and weight loss, because when you're watching TV late enough to start seeing infomercials, you're probably also thinking to yourself: "I need to get my life together. I should get in shape." Seven states—Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Utah, and Wisconsin—have invested in the P90X home fitness system, while West Virginia and Arkansas prefer the gentler workout provided by the Shake Weight. The ThighMaster is still a thing in Illinois and Washington, while Total Gym and Bowflex were favored by South Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. 

Kitchen items are clearly another category ripe for impulse-buying: Alabama and North Dakota are all over the George Forman Grill; Alaska and Rhode Island are mixing things up with the Magic Bullet; and Floridians must be using their Slice-o-matics to chop up limes for their poolside margaritas.

Cleaning products like OxiClean (D.C. and Hawaii), Sani Sticks (North Carolina), and the infamous ShamWow (which claims the loyalty of Mainers) are also popular, but it's Proactiv that turned out to be the big winner. The beloved skin care system claimed the top spot in eight states—California, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas—making it the most popular item on the map.

Peep the full map above, or check out the full study from All Home Connections here.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
Design
A Florida Brewery Created Edible Six-Pack Rings to Protect Marine Animals

For tiny scraps of plastic, six-pack rings can pose a huge threat to marine life. Small enough and ubiquitous enough that they’re easy to discard and forget about, the little plastic webs all too often make their way to the ocean, where animals can ingest or become trapped in them. In order to combat that problem, Florida-based Saltwater Brewery has created what they say is the world’s first fully biodegradable, compostable, edible six-pack rings.

The edible rings are made of barley and wheat and are, if not necessarily tasty, at least safe for animals and humans to ingest. Saltwater Brewery started packaging their beers with the edible six-pack rings in 2016. They charge slightly more for their brews to offset the cost of the rings' production. They hope that customers will be willing to pay a bit more for the environmentally friendly beers and are encouraging other companies to adopt the edible six-pack rings in order to lower manufacturing prices and save more animals.

As Saltwater Brewery president Chris Gove says in the video above: “We want to influence the big guys and kind of inspire them to also get on board.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios