After a week of anticipation, NASA has finally released a historic Hubble Space Telescope image – and it is really stunning.
To summarise, the photograph seems to show the farthest distant star ever discovered by humans. According to the scientists behind the finding, this not only breaks a record but also gives valuable information into the early universe and sets up a “major confirmation” for the ultrapowerful new James Webb Space Telescope.
“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 of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the lead researcher behind the new image, in a blurb about the finding.
The Hubble was able to observe the star, called Earendel — yep, that is a “Lord of the Rings” term — because of a fortunate alignment behind a galaxy cluster, which generated a gravitational lens effect magnifying the very distant celestial entity. Light from the star was emitted 900 million years after the Big Bang and took 12.9 billion years to travel to Earth. That makes it on edge of space-time continuum according to Big Bang theory.
“Normally at these distances, entire galaxies look like small smudges, with 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 named the Sunrise Arc.”
The discovery, revealed in recent research published in the journal Nature, offers a view into the cosmos at a previously unknown period when the whole makeup of stars may have been different. They want to scan it soon with the James Webb telescope, which is currently being calibrated and is much more powerful than the Hubble.
“Earendel existed so long ago that it may not have had all the same raw materials as the stars around us today,” Welch said. “Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know. It’s like we’ve been reading a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we will have a chance to see how it all got started”