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NASA Hubble Telescope's Most-Distant Star Ever Seen Chanced Upon 9 Billion Light Years Away

NASA Hubble Telescope's Most-Distant Star Ever Seen Chanced Upon 9 Billion Light Years Away

Panels at right (enlarged from the image at left) show the view in 2011, without Icarus visible, compared with the star's brightening in 2016. (University of Minnesota)

By    |   Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:34 AM

NASA's Hubble Telescope helped astronomers identify the most distant star ever seen, approximately nine billion light years away.

Stars like the one scientifically named MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1, but nicknamed Icarus, are usually too faint to be seen even with the most powerful telescopes, The Guardian reported, but a chance alignment helped make Icarus' light bright enough to be spotted.

"But through a quirk of nature that tremendously amplifies the star's feeble glow, astronomers using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record," said the Space Telescope Science Institute's website Hubblesite. "They also used Icarus to test one theory of dark matter, and to probe the make-up of a foreground galaxy cluster."

The Guardian said researchers were studying the supernova SN Refsdal when they found what they called a "pinprick" of light four times brighter than in previous images. The international team of researchers, whose work is detailed in the science journal Nature Astronomy, determined that the light appeared to becoming from the same galaxy as the supernova.

"We are looking back three-quarters of the way almost to the big bang," said Patrick Kelly, first author of the research from the University of Minnesota, per The Guardian. "It's more than 100 times farther away than the next most distant individual star we can observe."

Hubblesite said the team first spotted something there in 2016 and after analyzing the colors determined it was a blue supergiant star, which is larger, hotter and "possibly hundreds of thousands of times intrinsically brighter than our Sun."

"The source isn't getting hotter; it's not exploding," Kelly told Hubblesite, explaining how researchers determined it was a living star and not a supernova. "The light is just being magnified. And that's what you expect from gravitational lensing."

Hubblesite said models suggested Icarus's tremendous brightening was probably from the gravitational amplification of a star, similar in mass to the Sun, in the foreground galaxy cluster when the star moved in front of it. The star's light is usually magnified by about 600 times due to the foreground cluster's mass.

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NASA's Hubble Telescope helped astronomers identify the most distant star ever seen, approximately nine billion light years away.
nasa, hubble telescope, most-distant star
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2018-34-03
Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:34 AM
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