Something vital is missing in the far distant reaches of the Universe: hydrogen - the raw material for stars, planets and possible life.
A team of Australian astronomers' discovery of its apparent absence from distant galaxies is puzzling because hydrogen gas is the most common constituent of normal matter in the Universe.
Dr Steve Curran and colleagues at the University of New South Wales made their observations with the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India, which comprises thirty 45-metre-diameter dishes and is one of the world's most sensitive radio telescopes.
The results are to be published in a forthcoming issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
"Since hydrogen gas is consumed by star formation, we may expect more hydrogen gas in the distant, and therefore earlier, Universe as all of the stars we see today have yet to form," Dr Curran says.
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