Published: Thu, April 05, 2018
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA Hubble uncovers the farthest star ever seen

NASA Hubble uncovers the farthest star ever seen

In an astonishing new discovery, astronomers were able to find a star 9 billion light years away with the Hubble Space Telescope, which would make it by far the farthest star ever spotted.

Astronomy magazine, citing Nature Astronomy, reported that the worldwide team of researchers located the blue supergiant-nicknamed Icarus- that emitted its light when the universe was one-third its current age.

Because its light has taken so long to reach Earth, looking at this star is like peering back in time to when the universe was less than a third of its current age.

In gravitational lensing, gravity from a foreground, massive cluster of galaxies acts as a natural lens in space, bending and amplifying light.

While astronomers routinely study galaxies much farther away, they're visible only because they glow with the brightness of billions of stars.

Scientists have detected the most distant star ever viewed, a blue behemoth located more than halfway across the universe and named after the ancient Greek mythological figure Icarus.


Details about the landmark event appear in a paper, titled "Extreme magnification of a star at redshift 1.5 by a galaxy cluster lens", which was published online yesterday in Nature Astronomy.

The astronomy team also used Icarus to test and reject one theory of dark matter - that it consists of numerous primordial black holes lurking inside galaxy clusters - and to probe the make-up of normal matter and dark matter in the galaxy cluster. Turns out, astronomers can see the resulting distorted image from such gravitational lensing, and that image is magnified.

So, the star's gravitational lens had a multiplying effect. In this case, a star about the size of our sun briefly passed directly through the line of sight between the distant star Icarus and Hubble, boosting its brightness more than 2,000 times.

Usually, the cluster magnifies Icarus by a factor of about 600. The ring is too small to discern from this distance, but the effect made the star easily visible by magnifying its apparent brightness.

Kelly had not set out to spy on record-breaking stars.

Kelly went on to admit that when he began his research for the project, he had not set out to find any kind of rare star but rather to simply see what was out there, given that the discoveries of such groundbreaking celestial bodies such as Icarus happen nearly once in a lifetime. If astrophysicists look sufficiently deep enough, Kelly said, they should be able to learn about some of the universe's first stars.

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