Hubble Space Telescope spots the most distant star ever seen | by PCMag | PC Magazine | April 2022

The record orb was nicknamed Earendel, or “morning star”, by the astronauts.

By Stephanie Mlot

Turns out you can learn new tricks from old space telescopes: NASA’s Hubble, which launched into low Earth orbit in 1990, recently discovered a record-breaking star so far away it took a combination of the instruments sophisticated telescope and gravitational lens to locate it.

Nicknamed “Earendel” by astronomers, the star emitted its light during the first billion years of the universe, according to NASA, making it the most distant individual star we have ever seen. This marks a “significant jump” beyond Hubble’s previous distance record, the agency said, citing the 2018 detection of a star some 4 billion years after the Big Bang.

To find Earendel (meaning “morning star” in Old English), Hubble took advantage of nature’s magnifying glass— an effect known as gravitational lensing. The telescope peered through the mass-distorted space of the massive galaxy cluster WHL0137–08, which magnified the starlight enough to be seen.

The newly detected star – about 50 times the mass of our Sun and millions of times brighter – is so far away that its light took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, now appearing to us as it was when the universe was only 7% of its current age. Previously, the smallest objects seen at such a distance were indistinguishable star clusters.

“We almost didn’t believe it at first, it was so much further away than the previous farthest redshift star,” Johns Hopkins University astronomer Brian Welch said in a statement. The discovery, published in the journal Naturewas carried out on the basis of data collected during Hubble’s RELICS (Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey) program.

“Normally, at these distances, entire galaxies look like little specks, the light from millions of stars blending together,” Welch said. “The galaxy hosting this star has been magnified and distorted by gravitational lensing into a long crescent that we have named the sunrise arc.”

The new from NASA James Webb Telescope, which boasts high sensitivity to infrared light, will follow up on the discovery and hopefully learn more about Earendel’s luminosity, temperature and composition. The celestial body is unlikely to be one of the first-generation stars in our universe, but astronomers are eager to better understand the environment of the early cosmos.

“With Webb, we can see stars even further than Earendel, which would be incredibly exciting,” Welch said, “It’s like we’ve read a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we’ll have a chance to see how it all started.