A newly developed nano-sized electronic device is an important step toward helping astronomers see invisible light dating from the creation of the universe. This invisible light makes up 98% of the light emitted since the "big bang," and may provide insights into the earliest stages of star and galaxy formation almost 14 billion years ago.
The tiny, new circuit, developed by physicsts at Rutgers University, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and the State University of New York at Buffalo, is 100 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair. It is sensitive to faint traces of light in the far-infrared spectrum (longest of the infrared wavelengths), well beyond the colors humans see.
"In the expanding universe, the earliest stars move away from us at a speed approaching the speed of light," said Michael Gershenson, professor of physics at Rutgers and one of the lead investigators. "As a result, their light is strongly red-shifted when it reaches us, appearing infrared."