See Inside Scientific American Volume 310, Issue 4

The First Stars in the Universe

Not long after the big bang's flash, all light left the cosmos. Astronomers are now solving the mystery of its return

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About 13.8 billion years ago, just 400,000 years or so after the big bang, the universe abruptly went dark.

Before that time, the entire visible universe was a hot, seething, roiling plasma—a dense cloud of protons, neutrons and electrons. If anyone had been there to see it, the universe would have looked like a pea soup fog, but blindingly bright.

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