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The remnants of a supernova explosion. Photo: NASA/CXC/SAO

The first stars born just millions of years after the Big Bang are thought to have been massive, bright balls of helium and hydrogen, with heavy elements like carbon, zinc and iron forming in their cores.

Driving the news: A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal details how these stars died, seeding the universe with elements that eventually gave rise to our sun, planets, other stars and more.

What they found: The new study suggests that when these stars turned into supernovas, they didn’t explode in a spherical ball. Instead, new research shows the explosions were actually asymmetrical, shooting powerful jets of heavy elements out into neighboring galaxies.

What they did: The scientists studied the star HE 1327-2326, which is thought to be a surviving second-generation star that formed after the first generation of stars exploded.

  • The star was very rich in zinc, which the researchers argue could only happen if a first generation star exploded and seeded HE 1327-2326’s part of space with the heavy element.
  • And a series of 10,000 simulations showed the only way to explain the zinc signal in the star — which is located about 5,000 light-years away — was if a first generation star asymmetrically exploded.
“The working hypothesis is, maybe second generation stars of this kind formed in these polluted virgin systems, and not in the same system as the supernova explosion itself, which is always what we had assumed, without thinking in any other way. So this is opening up a new channel for early star formation."
— Anna Frebel, co-author of the new study, said in a statement.

Go deeper

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

8 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.