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NASA’s Hubble discovers farthest star detected till date: Earendel

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    11th Apr, 2022

Context

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has discovered the farthest star ever seen to date.

About

About the star:

  • The star is more than 9 billion light-years away.
  • It is likely existed within the first billion years after the beginning of the universe.
  • The star system is officially called WHL0137-LS.
  • It has been nicknamed “Earendel”, which means “morning star” in Old English.

Other record-holding star:

  • Icarus:
    • This discovery is a massive leap from the previous record-holding star: “Icarus” or officially, MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1. 
    • Icarus existed at a time when the universe was about 4 billion years old or about one-third of its current age, at a time that astronomers refer to as “redshift 1.5.”
    • Scientists use the word “redshift” because as the universe expands, light from distant objects is stretched or “shifted” to longer, redder wavelengths as it travels toward us.
  • The oldest known star, nicknamed “Methuselah,” discovered by Hubble in 2013.
  • Hubble also holds the cosmic distance record for a galaxy. Its light took 13.4 billion years to reach Earth.

What made such farthest star visible?

  • It happened because of phenomenon of gravitational lensing.
  • Gravitational lensing occurs when a cluster of stars warps the fabric of space.
  • This creates a sort of massive magnifying glass that distorts and amplifies the light from distant objects behind it.
  • In the case of Earendel, this is caused by a huge galaxy cluster called WHL0137-08.
  • Scientists expect Earendel to remain highly magnified in the years to come when it can be observed by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Webb has a high sensitivity to infrared light which will be useful when trying to learn more about the newly-discovered star because its light is redshifted to longer infrared wavelengths.

Hubble Space Telescope

  • It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble.
  • The observatory is the first major optical telescope to be placed in space and has made ground-breaking discoveries in the field of astronomy since its launch (into Low Earth orbit in 1990).
  • It is said to be the “most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo’s telescope.”
  • It is a part of NASA's Great Observatories Program - a family of four space-based observatories, each observing the Universe in a different kind of light.
    • The other missions in the program include the visible-light Spitzer Space Telescope, Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory (CGRO), and the Chandra X-Ray Observatory (CXO).
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