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How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?

Book Description

Though astrophysicists have developed a theoretical framework for understanding how the first stars and galaxies formed, only now are we able to begin testing those theories with actual observations of the very distant, early universe. We are entering a new and exciting era of discovery that will advance the frontiers of knowledge, and this book couldn't be more timely. It covers all the basic concepts in cosmology, drawing on insights from an astronomer who has pioneered much of this research over the past two decades.

Abraham Loeb starts from first principles, tracing the theoretical foundations of cosmology and carefully explaining the physics behind them. Topics include the gravitational growth of perturbations in an expanding universe, the abundance and properties of dark matter halos and galaxies, reionization, the observational methods used to detect the earliest galaxies and probe the diffuse gas between them--and much more.

Cosmology seeks to solve the fundamental mystery of our cosmic origins. This book offers a succinct and accessible primer at a time when breathtaking technological advances promise a wealth of new observational data on the first stars and galaxies.

  • Provides a concise introduction to cosmology
  • Covers all the basic concepts
  • Gives an overview of the gravitational growth of perturbations in an expanding universe
  • Explains the process of reionization
  • Describes the observational methods used to detect the earliest galaxies

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication Page
  5. Contents
  6. Preface
  7. 1 Prologue: The Big Picture
    1. 1.1 In the Beginning
    2. 1.2 Observing the Story of Genesis
    3. 1.3 Practical Benefits from the Big Picture
  8. 2 Standard Cosmological Model
    1. 2.1 Cosmic Perspective
    2. 2.2 Past and Future of Our Universe
    3. 2.3 Gravitational Instability
    4. 2.4 Geometry of Space
    5. 2.5 Cosmic Archaeology
    6. 2.6 Milestones in Cosmic Evolution
    7. 2.7 Most Matter Is Dark
  9. 3 The First Gas Clouds
    1. 3.1 Growing the Seed Fluctuations
    2. 3.2 The Smallest Gas Condensations
    3. 3.3 Spherical Collapse and Halo Properties
    4. 3.4 Abundance of Dark Matter Halos
    5. 3.5 Cooling and Chemistry
    6. 3.6 Sheets, Filaments, and Only Then, Galaxies
  10. 4 The First Stars and Black Holes
    1. 4.1 Metal-Free Stars
    2. 4.2 Properties of the First Stars
    3. 4.3 The First Black Holes and Quasars
    4. 4.4 Gamma-Ray Bursts: The Brightest Explosions
  11. 5 The Reionization of Cosmic Hydrogen by the First Galaxies
    1. 5.1 Ionization Scars by the First Stars
    2. 5.2 Propagation of Ionization Fronts
    3. 5.3 Swiss Cheese Topology
  12. 6 Observing the First Galaxies
    1. 6.1 Theories and Observations
    2. 6.2 Completing Our Photo Album of the Universe
    3. 6.3 Cosmic Time Machine
    4. 6.4 The Hubble Deep Field and Its Follow-Ups
    5. 6.5 Observing the First Gamma-Ray Bursts
    6. 6.6 Future Telescopes
  13. 7 Imaging the Diffuse Fog of Cosmic Hydrogen
    1. 7.1 Hydrogen
    2. 7.2 The Lyman-α Line
    3. 7.3 The 21-cm Line
    4. 7.4 Observing Most of the Observable Volume
  14. 8 Epilogue: From Our Galaxy’s Past to Its Future
    1. 8.1 End of Extragalactic Astronomy
    2. 8.2 Milky Way + Andromeda = Milkomeda
  15. Appendix: Useful Numbers
  16. Notes
  17. Recommended Further Reading
  18. Glossary
  19. Index