Earendel: Hubble detects farthest star ever spotted

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,138   +154
Staff member
What just happened? All eyes are on the James Webb Space Telescope but its predecessor isn't ready to retire just yet. Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope recently discovered the farthest star ever seen. Dubbed Earendel, the star is so far away that its light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth. At the time it existed, the universe was only seven percent of its current age.

"We almost didn't believe it at first, it was so much farther than the previous most-distant, highest redshift star," said astronomer Brian Welch from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Welch is the lead author on a paper describing the discovery, which can be found in the March 30 edition of the journal Nature.

The previous single-star record holder, a huge blue star nicknamed Icarus, existed when the universe was roughly four billion years old.

Researchers believe Earendel could be at least 50 times larger than our own Sun and millions of times brighter. Notably, it isn't the oldest known star. That honor belongs to a star named Methuselah.

Welch noted that at such distances, it's not uncommon for entire galaxies to look like small smudges. To get around this limitation, the astronomers relied on a technique known as gravitational lensing.

In space, the gravity of massive galaxy clusters in the foreground stretch and amplify the light of background galaxies. This acts as a natural magnifying glass, allowing astronomers to study details in galaxies that would otherwise be impossible to see with our current technology.

That's exactly what happened here as a huge galaxy cluster between us and Earendel - , WHL0137-08 - literally warped the fabric of space and amplified the light so we could see it.

Image credit InstaWalli

Permalink to story.

 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,641
Makes you wonder what the JWST will discover.
Almost certainly much more. JWST is designed to be most sensitive in the infrared region of the spectrum, and light from objects that far away is strongly shifted towards the red/infrared which basically means that JWST will be better able to see them.

In one article I read on this, it was stated that JWST will be used to further study this star.
 

McKocoa

Posts: 57   +67
It's pretty cool to look at the "Hubble Legacy Field" image, there is a full resolution TIF that is over 1 GB in size.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,641
It's pretty cool to look at the "Hubble Legacy Field" image, there is a full resolution TIF that is over 1 GB in size.
I agree. There are lots of images available from Hubble that are freely available on their web site.

While these space telescopes, their science, and their images are amazing and they dominate astronomical news, I personally think the media should pay more attention to the new ground-based scopes coming into play such as the E-ELT currently under construction in the Cerro Armazones in Chile's Atacama Desert. It's a monster scope with a 39-meter main mirror that will far surpass any current space telescope in its imaging abilities. Most of the big scopes, e.g., Keck, Large Binocular Telescope, and others, already produce images with more resolution and fine detail than Hubble, but the space telescopes get all the glory.
 

elementalSG

Posts: 270   +478
It still blows my mind to think that light coming from the star is what it emitted 12.9 billion years ago. Even if you were to warp instantaneously to where Hubble believes the star is, it may no longer be there anymore (or perhaps is already went supernova) since that light was from 12.9 billion years ago
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,699   +6,641
It still blows my mind to think that light coming from the star is what it emitted 12.9 billion years ago. Even if you were to warp instantaneously to where Hubble believes the star is, it may no longer be there anymore (or perhaps is already went supernova) since that light was from 12.9 billion years ago
As I understand it, it is a given that it is no longer where it was when that light was emitted. In that time, the star could have easily gone supernova or experienced some other cataclysmic event known to occur in the lifetimes of stars. Plus, the universe is accepted to be expanding, and that alone means if it is still a star, it is further away.
 

Mugsy

Posts: 758   +186
The light from that star was emitted 12.9 BILLION years ago. The Earth is "only' 4.5 Billion years old, meaning that star was created (and the light left from it) set out 8.5 Billion years before the Earth even existed.

That's 1 MILLION YEARS 8,500 TIMES OVER!
 

Mugsy

Posts: 758   +186
I agree. There are lots of images available from Hubble that are freely available on their web site.

While these space telescopes, their science, and their images are amazing and they dominate astronomical news, I personally think the media should pay more attention to the new ground-based scopes coming into play such as the E-ELT currently under construction in the Cerro Armazones in Chile's Atacama Desert. It's a monster scope with a 39-meter main mirror that will far surpass any current space telescope in its imaging abilities. Most of the big scopes, e.g., Keck, Large Binocular Telescope, and others, already produce images with more resolution and fine detail than Hubble, but the space telescopes get all the glory.
The key benefit of a space telescope is that it's stationary. So it can focus on a single point in space long enough to absorb enough light to for a picture.

Terrestrial-based scopes are in constant motion as the Earth rotates (plus will always have the Earth's gravity and atmosphere to contend with), greatly limiting their abilities.