NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Spots Most Distant Star Ever, 12.9 Billion Years Away
NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted light from a star so far away that it has taken 12.9 billion years to travel to Earth.
It is a finding never seen by the human eye until now.
“We almost didn’t believe it at first,” said astronomer Brian Welch of Johns Hopkins University, who is the lead author of the paper describing the discovery in the March 30 edition of the journal Nature. “It was so much farther than the previous most-distant, highest redshift star,” added Welch, referring to the 2018 image referred to as “redshift 1.5” which captured light from that star that existed when the universe was about 4 billion years old.
According to scientists, the word redshift is used “because as the universe expands, light from distant objects is stretched or shifted to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels toward us.”
The new benchmark captured by Hubble is astonishing to researchers.
They are seeing the light of a star that existed within the first billion years after the Big Bang when the universe was created.
“Normally at these distances, entire galaxies look like small smudges, with the light from millions of stars blending together,” said Welch. “The galaxy hosting this star has been magnified and distorted by gravitational lensing into a long crescent that we named the Sunrise Arc.”
Welch has named the star Earendel, which means morning star in Old English.
“Earendel existed so long ago that it may not have had all the same raw materials as the stars around us today,” he said.
According to NASA, the smallest objects previously seen at such a great distance were clusters of stars embedded inside early galaxies. Welch believes the discovery holds promise for opening up an uncharted era of very early star formation.
“Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know,” he said. “It’s like we’ve been reading a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we will have a chance to see how it all got started.”