The deepest space- and ground-based observations find metal-enriched galaxies at cosmic times when the Universe was less than 1 Gyr old. These stellar populations had to be preceded by the metal-free first stars, known as ‘population III’. Recent cosmic microwave background polarization measurements indicate that stars started forming early—when the Universe was ≤200 Myr old. It is now thought that population III stars were significantly more massive than the present metal-rich stellar populations. Although such sources will not be individually detectable by existing or planned telescopes, they would have produced significant cosmic infrared background radiation in the near-infrared, whose fluctuations reflect the conditions in the primordial density field. Here we report a measurement of diffuse flux fluctuations after removing foreground stars and galaxies. The anisotropies exceed the instrument noise and the more local foregrounds; they can be attributed to emission from population III stars, at an era dominated by these objects.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Nature Communications Open Access 08 September 2015
Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology Open Access 28 March 2015
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Hauser, M. G. & Dwek, E. The cosmic infrared background: Measurements and implications. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 39, 249–307 (2001)
Kashlinsky, A. Cosmic infrared background and early galaxy evolution. Phys. Rep. 409, 361–438 (2005)
Kogut, A. et al. First year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) observations: Temperature-polarization correlation. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 148, 161–173 (2003)
Abel, T. et al. The formation of the first star in the Universe. Science 295, 93–98 (2002)
Bromm, V. et al. Forming the first stars in the Universe: The fragmentation of primordial gas. Astrophys. J. 527, L5–L8 (1999)
Bromm, V. & Larson, R. B. The first stars. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 42, 79–118 (2004)
Rees, M. J. Origin of pregalactic microwave background. Nature 275, 35–37 (1978)
Kashlinsky, A., Arendt, R., Gardner, J. P., Mather, J. & Moseley, S. H. Detecting population III stars through observations of near-infrared cosmic infrared background anisotropies. Astrophys. J. 608, 1–9 (2004)
Kashlinsky, A., Mather, J. & Odenwald, S. Clustering of the diffuse infrared light from the COBE DIRBE maps. IV. Overall results and possible interpretations. Preprint (1999).
Salvaterra, R. & Ferrara, A. The imprint of the cosmic dark ages on the near-infrared background. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 339, 973–982 (2003)
Magliocchetti, M., Salvaterra, R. & Ferrara, A. First stars contribution to the near-infrared background fluctuations. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 342, L25–L29 (2003)
Santos, M., Bromm, V. & Kamionkowski, M. The contribution of the first stars to the cosmic infrared background. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 336, 1082–1092 (2002)
Cooray, A., Bock, J., Keating, B., Lange, A. & Matsumoto, T. First star signature in infrared background anisotropies. Astrophys. J. 606, 611–624 (2004)
Kashlinsky, A. & Odenwald, S. Clustering of the diffuse infrared light from the COBE DIRBE maps. III. Power spectrum analysis and excess isotropic component of fluctuations. Astrophys. J. 528, 74–95 (2000)
Matsumoto, T. et al. Infrared telescope in space observations of the near-infrared extra-galactic background light. Astrophys. J. 626, 31–43 (2005)
Kashlinsky, A., Odenwald, S., Mather, J., Skrutskie, M. & Cutri, R. Detection of small-scale fluctuations in the near-infrared cosmic infrared background from long-exposure 2MASS fields. Astrophys. J. 579, L53–L57 (2002)
Odenwald, S., Kashlinsky, A., Mather, J., Skrutskie, M. & Cutri, R. Analysis of the diffuse near-infrared emission from Two-Micron All-Sky Survey deep integration data: Foregrounds versus the cosmic infrared background. Astrophys. J. 583, 535–550 (2003)
Fazio, G. G. et al. Number counts at 3 µm <λ <10 µm from the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 154, 39–43 (2004)
Fazio, G. G. et al. The Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) for the Spitzer Space Telescope. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 154, 10–17 (2004)
Barmby, P. et al. Deep mid-infrared observations of Lyman break galaxies. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 154, 97–102 (2004)
Fixsen, D. J., Moseley, S. H. & Arendt, R. G. Calibrating array detectors. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 128, 651–658 (2000)
Högbom, J. Aperture synthesis with a non-regular distribution of interferometer baselines. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 15, 417–426 (1974)
Kelsall, T. et al. The COBE Diffuse Infrared Background Experiment search for the cosmic infrared background. II. Model of the interplanetary dust cloud. Astrophys. J. 508, 44–73 (1998)
Kaiser, N. On the spatial correlations of Abell clusters. Astrophys. J. 284, L9–L12 (1984)
Bertin, E. & Arnouts, S. SExtractor: Software for source extraction. Astron. Astrophys. Suppl. 117, 393–404 (1996)
Bennett, C. et al. First-year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) observations: Preliminary maps and basic results. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 148, 1–37, (2003)
Perlmutter, S. et al. Measurements of omega and lambda from 42 high-redshift supernovae. Astrophys. J. 517, 565–586 (1999)
Efstathiou, G., Sutherland, W. J. & Maddox, S. J. The cosmological constant and cold dark matter. Nature 348, 705–707 (1990)
Tegmark, M. et al. Cosmological parameters from SDSS and WMAP. Phys. Rev. D 69, 103501–103527 (2004)
Peacock, J. & Dodds, S. J. Non-linear evolution of cosmological power spectra, 1996. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 280, L19–L26 (1996)
Maddox, S., Efstathiou, G., Sutherland, W. & Loveday, J. Galaxy correlations on large scales. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 242, 43P–47P (1990)
Springel, V. et al. Simulations of the formation, evolution and clustering of galaxies and quasars. Nature 435, 629–636 (2005)
Oliver, S. et al. Angular clustering of galaxies at 3.6 microns from the Spitzer Wide-area Infrared Extragalactic (SWIRE) survey. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 154, 30–34 (2004)
Steidel, C. et al. Spectroscopic identification of a protocluster at z = 2.300: Environmental dependence of galaxy properties at high redshift. Astrophys. J. 626, 44–50 (2005)
Miralda-Escude, J. The dark age of the Universe. Science 300, 1904–1909 (2003)
Kashlinsky, A. Reconstructing the spectrum of the pregalactic density field from astronomical data. Astrophys. J. 492, 1–28 (1998)
Gautier, T. N., Boulanger, F., Perault, M. & Puget, J. L. A calculation of confusion noise due to infrared cirrus. Astron. J. 103, 1313–1324 (1992)
Ingalls, J. G. et al. Structure and colors of diffuse emission in the Spitzer galactic first look survey. Astrophys. J. 154, 281–285 (2004)
Wright, E. L. Angular power spectra of the COBE DIRBE maps. Astrophys. J. 496, 1–8 (1998)
Eisenhardt, P. R. et al. The Infrared Array Camera (IRAC) shallow survey. Astrophys. J. Suppl. 154, 48–53 (2004)
Cowie, L. L. et al. New insight on galaxy formation and evolution from Keck spectroscopy of the Hawaii Deep Fields. Astron. J. 112, 839–864 (1996)
Shapley, A. E. et al. Ultraviolet to mid-infrared observations of star-forming galaxies at z∼2: Stellar masses and stellar populations. Astrophys. J. 626, 698–722 (2005)
Hauser, M. G. et al. The COBE diffuse infrared background experiment search for the cosmic infrared background. I. Limits and detections. Astrophys. J. 508, 25–43 (1998)
Wright, E. L. DIRBE minus 2MASS: Confirming the cosmic infrared background at 2.2 microns. Astrophys. J. 553, 538–544 (2001)
Arendt, R. et al. The COBE diffuse infrared background experiment search for the cosmic infrared background. III. Separation of galactic emission from the infrared sky brightness. Astrophys. J. 508, 74–105 (1998)
Dwek, D. & Arendt, R. A tentative detection of the cosmic infrared background at 3.5 µm from COBE/DIRBE observations. Astrophys. J. 508, L9–L12 (1998)
Wright, E. L. & Reese, E. D. Detection of the cosmic infrared background at 2.2 and 3.5 microns using DIRBE observations. Astrophys. J. 545, 43–55 (2000)
Gorjian, V., Wright, E. L. & Chary, R. R. Tentative detection of the cosmic infrared background at 2.2 and 3.5 microns using ground-based and space-based observations. Astrophys. J. 536, 550–560 (2000)
Cambresy, L., Reach, W. T., Beichman, C. A. & Jarrett, T. H. The cosmic infrared background at 1.25 and 2.2 microns using DIRBE and 2MASS: A contribution not due to galaxies? Astrophys. J. 555, 563–571 (2001)
We thank G. Fazio for access to the IRAC Deep Survey data and D. Fixsen and G. Hinshaw for comments on drafts of this paper. This Article reports work supported by the National Science Foundation, and which is based on observations made with the Spitzer Space Telescope (this telescope is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with NASA). Support for this work was also provided by NASA through an award issued by JPL/Caltech. Author Contributions A.K. is responsible for the idea, clipping the maps, power spectrum and correlation analyses, evaluating the extragalactic contributions and writing the paper. R.G.A. is responsible for the images for analysis, providing the model of the resolved sources with the IRAC PSF, and evaluating systematics, instrument, and zodiacal and cirrus contributions. J.M. and S.H.M. developed analysis strategy and searched for alternative explanations for the fluctuations. All authors provided critical review of the analysis techniques, results and manuscript.
Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Kashlinsky, A., Arendt, R., Mather, J. et al. Tracing the first stars with fluctuations of the cosmic infrared background. Nature 438, 45–50 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04143
This article is cited by
Computational Astrophysics and Cosmology (2015)
Nature Communications (2015)
Science China Physics, Mechanics and Astronomy (2013)
Experimental Astronomy (2013)