To Cool or Not to Cool

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Science  02 Jul 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5987, pp. 45-46
DOI: 10.1126/science.1192014

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One of the tantalizing questions in modern cosmology concerns how the first stars formed at the end of the cosmic dark ages, a few hundred million years after the Big Bang. It has long been realized that their emergence must have set into motion the rapid transformation of the early universe from an exceedingly simple initial state into one of ever-increasing complexity (1). On page 69 of this issue, Kreckel et al. (2) present a combination of laboratory and numerical astrophysics to provide an improved value for the production rate of molecular hydrogen (H2), one of the key physical processes that governed the formation of the first stars.