Scientists Discover Possibly the Most Distant Star Ever Seen | Science and technology news
Scientists have discovered what may be the most distant star mankind has ever seen.
Nicknamed Earendel, which means morning star in Old English, the star was discovered with the Hubble Space Telescope.
Researchers estimate that its light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, meaning it’s closer to the Big Bang (13.8 billion years ago) than the previous record-holder star nine billion years ago.
Earendel was discovered by an international team of researchers, including scientists from Durham University in the UK, led by the Space Telescope Science Institute in the US.
It was discovered using data collected during Hubble’s Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey (RELICS) program, and the results were published in the journal Nature.
dr Guillaume Mahler of Durham University said: “This may be the earliest star we will ever see since the Big Bang and it was so surprising that it is so much younger than the previous entry of nine billion years. I do not believe it.
“The discovery of Earendel is fantastic and there will be many other aspects of the star that we can study that could keep us busy for years to come,” added Dr. added Mahler.
Scientists are reluctant to confirm that Earendel is a single star at the moment, even though if it were, it would be at least 50 times the mass of our Sun and millions of times brighter, making it one of the most massive stars known.
How was it found?
Scientists were able to see it thanks to the natural magnification of a huge galaxy cluster that sits between us and the star.
This galaxy is so massive that it distorts the fabric of space, creating a kind of interstellar magnifying glass that distorts and magnifies light from objects behind it.
“Gravitational lenses are like observing galaxies under a microscope, and with technology like the Hubble telescope you start to see what’s inside,” said Dr. Mahler.
Durham’s team explained: “Thanks to its rare alignment with the expanding galaxy cluster, the star Earendel appears directly on or extremely close to a ripple in the fabric of space.
“This waviness, defined in optics as ‘caustic’, provides maximum magnification and brightening.
“The effect is comparable to the rippled surface of a swimming pool creating patterns of bright light on the bottom of the pool on a sunny day.
“The ripples on the surface act as lenses, focusing the sunlight at maximum brightness on the bottom of the pool. This caustic causes the star Earendel to stand out from the general glow of its host galaxy. Its brightness is amplified by a factor of a thousand,” they say.
The study’s lead author, Brian Welch, said: “We almost didn’t believe it at first, it was so much further away than the most distant star so far.
“Usually at these distances, whole galaxies look like little blobs. This galaxy has been magnified by gravitational lensing and distorted into a long crescent which we have dubbed the ‘Sunrise Arc’.
“The study of Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe unfamiliar to us, but which led to everything we know.
“It’s like we’ve read a really interesting book, but we’ve started the second chapter and now we have a chance to see how it all started.”
Astronomers believe the alignment will last several times, and Earendel is being observed by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is and has been the most powerful telescope in history started last year.
The JWST is ideal for studying Earendel, as its sensitivity to infrared light will help study the light reaching us from the star, which has been stretched into infrared wavelengths due to the expansion of the universe.
One of the study’s co-authors, Dan Coe of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, added: “With Webb, we expect to confirm that Earendel is indeed a star, as well as measure its brightness and temperature.
“We also expect the sunrise arc to lack heavy elements that form in subsequent stellar generations. This would indicate that Earendel is a rare massive metal-poor star.”
Another co-author, Selma de Mink, the scientific director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, described the find as “a bit like finding an old photograph of your great-grandparents, because these stars are basically our ‘stellar ones Ancestors’. .
“After all, we are made of the elements that once produced them. And yet we have so many unanswered questions.
“What’s most exciting to me is that some of the black holes recently discovered by gravitational waves are remnants of stars that were once alive. I hope Earendel and future similar discoveries will help us understand a little bit more about the origin of these black holes,” added de Mink.