The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a star 12.9 billion light years from Earth. NASA (US) and European Space Agency (Europe) announced on Wednesday that this is the most distant star ever observed. The old record goes back to 2018, when Hubble observed a star 9 billion light-years away.
The universe originated about 13.8 billion years ago with the Big Bang. When the discovered star sent out its light, the universe was only 900 million years old. That’s 7 percent of his current age, so the universe was very young at the time.
A light year is the distance that light can travel in one year, which is about 9.46 trillion kilometers. “We couldn’t believe it at first,” discoverer Brian Welch said in a statement. “At such distances, galaxies usually look like specks, where the light of millions of stars merge. The galaxy of this star is swelling because gravity acts like a magnifying glass.”
The star was named Earendel. This is an old English word for sunrise and morning star. When the star shines its light, it is probably at least fifty times larger than our sun and a million times brighter.
Hubble is nearing the end of his life. That is why the James Webb Space Telescope was launched at the end of last year. Earendel will have to study them further to get information about their brightness, temperature and composition.
This data can tell us something about the early universe. The stars may have been made of different materials than today’s stars. Welch: “Earendel became a window into the age of the universe that we don’t know, but comes from everything we know. It’s as if we’ve read an interesting book, but we’re starting with chapter two. Now we get a chance to see how it started.”
The discovery was published Wednesday in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. “The Earndale study will provide a window into a period of the universe that we weren’t aware of, but that led to everything we know today,” said Brian Welch, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of the research paper.
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