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How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?

by Abraham Loeb Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 216 pages
AU$72.00 NZ$73.04
Product Status: Not Our Publication - we no longer distribute
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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


Chapter 1: Prologue: The Big Picture 1

1.1 In the Beginning 1

1.2 Observing the Story of Genesis 2

1.3 Practical Benefits from the Big Picture 5

Chapter 2: Standard Cosmological Model 8

2.1 Cosmic Perspective 8

2.2 Past and Future of Our Universe 11

2.3 Gravitational Instability 15

2.4 Geometry of Space 16

2.5 Cosmic Archaeology 18

2.6 Milestones in Cosmic Evolution 23

2.7 Most Matter Is Dark 30

Chapter 3: The First Gas Clouds 35

3.1 Growing the Seed Fluctuations 36

3.2 The Smallest Gas Condensations 43

3.3 Spherical Collapse and Halo Properties 45

3.4 Abundance of Dark Matter Halos 50

3.5 Cooling and Chemistry 59

3.6 Sheets, Filaments, and Only Then, Galaxies 61

Chapter 4: The First Stars and Black Holes 64

4.1 Metal-Free Stars 65

4.2 Properties of the First Stars 74

4.3 The First Black Holes and Quasars 78

4.4 Gamma-Ray Bursts: The Brightest Explosions 89

Chapter 5: The Reionization of Cosmic Hydrogen by the First Galaxies 95

5.1 Ionization Scars by the First Stars 95

5.2 Propagation of Ionization Fronts 98

5.3 Swiss Cheese Topology 111

Chapter 6: Observing the First Galaxies 116

6.1 Theories and Observations 116

6.2 Completing Our Photo Album of the Universe 117

6.3 Cosmic Time Machine 119

6.4 The Hubble Deep Field and Its Follow-Ups 125

6.5 Observing the First Gamma-Ray Bursts 129

6.6 Future Telescopes 133

Chapter 7: Imaging the Diffuse Fog of Cosmic Hydrogen 136

7.1 Hydrogen 136

7.2 The Lyman-? Line 137

7.3 The 21-cm Line 140

7.4 Observing Most of the Observable Volume 156

Chapter 8: Epilogue: From Our Galaxy's Past to Its Future 159

8.1 End of Extragalactic Astronomy 159

8.2 Milky Way + Andromeda = Milkomeda 164






Abraham Loeb, a leading figure in exploring the emergence of first galaxies and stars, introduces the astrophysics of the first billion years. With a strong emphasis on the underlying physics, this book will be an essential starting point for both observers and theorists who are interested in this rapidly evolving area of cosmology. David Spergel, Princeton University A lucid, concise account of our current understanding of how light burst from darkness when the first stars and galaxies formed early in the expansion of the universe. Starting from basic physical principles, Loeb describes the physical processes that shaped the evolution of the universe, how they led to the formation of the first black holes, quasars, and gamma-ray bursts, and how upcoming observations will test these ideas. Christopher F. McKee, University of California, Berkeley This is a lively, well-written book. Loeb is an excellent writer and talented instructor who is also internationally recognized in the research community. The topic at hand--the first stars and galaxies--is truly an exciting frontier for which Loeb and his collaborators have developed much of the theoretical framework, and for which the observational possibilities are rapidly developing. The timing of this book couldn't be better. Richard S. Ellis, California Institute of Technology This is an extremely good book. Loeb guides readers through the early, formative history of the universe. He does not shy away from key calculations, but always tries to make things as simple as possible. His style is truly engaging, with a constant eye on the big picture. It makes for a thrilling read. Indeed, I found it difficult to put down. Volker Bromm, University of Texas, Austin
Abraham Loeb is professor of astronomy and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard University.