How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form?

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Overview

"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

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Editorial Reviews

Australian
Hands up everyone who can answer the question Loeb poses in the title of his small but sprightly book. No, not just the basics: big bang, cosmic inflation, lights, camera, action. Me neither. Harvard University astrophysicist and cosmologist Abraham Loeb can, and he does in this latest installment of the Princeton Frontiers in Physics series. While the book targets potential cosmologists and scientists, general readers will enjoy the non-technical chapters.
Science
[E]ngaging, fast-paced. . . . Loeb's infectious excitement stirs desire to join him in these endeavors. . . . [R]eaders will find How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form? a lucid introduction to an exciting research field that is set to flourish in the next decades.
American Journal of Physics
Anyone interested in an introduction to this dramatic story, be they academic or educated nonprofessional, would do well to start with Loeb's book. It contains only the most important equations in the field, and its general level of mathematical sophistication is compatible with introductory courses in calculus or mathematical physics. This small book is a gem belonging to an almost extinct genre: intermediate-level monographs that are both accessible to educated non-specialists in the field and tightly focused on a problem.
— Milan M. Cirkovic
Choice
Loeb, a leading theoretical cosmologist, has written a lucid account of the relevant physics, beginning with a brief review of cosmological models based on Einstein's general relativity equations.
American Journal of Physics - Milan M. Cirkovic
Anyone interested in an introduction to this dramatic story, be they academic or educated nonprofessional, would do well to start with Loeb's book. It contains only the most important equations in the field, and its general level of mathematical sophistication is compatible with introductory courses in calculus or mathematical physics. This small book is a gem belonging to an almost extinct genre: intermediate-level monographs that are both accessible to educated non-specialists in the field and tightly focused on a problem.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award, American Astronomical Society

"[E]ngaging, fast-paced. . . . Loeb's infectious excitement stirs desire to join him in these endeavors. . . . [R]eaders will find How Did the First Stars and Galaxies Form? a lucid introduction to an exciting research field that is set to flourish in the next decades."—Science

"Hands up everyone who can answer the question Loeb poses in the title of his small but sprightly book. No, not just the basics: big bang, cosmic inflation, lights, camera, action. Me neither. Harvard University astrophysicist and cosmologist Abraham Loeb can, and he does in this latest installment of the Princeton Frontiers in Physics series. While the book targets potential cosmologists and scientists, general readers will enjoy the non-technical chapters."—Australian

"Anyone interested in an introduction to this dramatic story, be they academic or educated nonprofessional, would do well to start with Loeb's book. It contains only the most important equations in the field, and its general level of mathematical sophistication is compatible with introductory courses in calculus or mathematical physics. This small book is a gem belonging to an almost extinct genre: intermediate-level monographs that are both accessible to educated non-specialists in the field and tightly focused on a problem."—Milan M. Cirkovic, American Journal of Physics

"Loeb, a leading theoretical cosmologist, has written a lucid account of the relevant physics, beginning with a brief review of cosmological models based on Einstein's general relativity equations."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691145167
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/19/2010
  • Series: Princeton Frontiers in Physics Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 1,453,766
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Abraham Loeb is professor of astronomy and director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Preface xi

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Imaging the Diffuse Fog of Cosmic Hydrogen 136

7.1 Hydrogen 136

7.2 The Lyman-αLine 137

7.3 The 21-cm Line 140

7.4 Observing Most of the Observable Volume 156

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

Appendix: Useful Numbers 171

Notes 173

Recommended Further Reading 181

Glossary 183

Index 189

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