Hubble Space Telescope Discovers Most Distant Star Ever Seen
by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14
Have you ever wondered how far away the most distant star is? Or how NASA discovers such distant things in our universe?
The Hubble Space Telescope is a partnership between NASA and the European Space Agency. During Hubble’s 32-year lifespan, it has helped NASA make more than 1.5 million observations. The Hubble, which has helped discover black holes, merging galaxies, interstellar objects, and even moons surrounding Pluto, is located 340 miles above Earth.
Thanks to this telescope, NASA managed to get their hands on an unprecedented image of the farthest star discovered so far, Earendel, which means “morning star” in Old English. NASA assumes that Earendel is about 50 times the mass of our sun and is millions of times more scintillating. The star appeared less than a billion years after the Big Bang which occurred around 13.8 billion years ago. The star is located 12.9 billion light-years from Earth. “We don’t know yet if it’s part of the very first generation of stars,” says Brenda Fyre, an astronomer from the University of Arizona and co-author of an article describing the discovery.
Icarus, about 9 billion light-years from Earth, was named the most distant star before the discovery of Earendel. Icarus was also spotted by Hubble in 2016 by a group of astronomers. According to astronomers, Hubble was able to spot Earendel and Icarus even though stars far from Earth are usually too faint to be seen by even powerful telescopes.
Gravitational lensing helped Hubble spot such distant stars. “With gravitational lensing, scientists are essentially using a gigantic cosmic telescope to probe the early universe,” according to Alexei Fillipenko, an astronomer involved in the discovery of Icarus. Gravitational lensing is a phenomenon where huge celestial objects cause light-bending gravity and act as a magnifying glass.
Earendel was discovered when astronomers were just beginning to turn their attention to the James Webb Telescope, a new, more powerful telescope launched recently. The Webb telescope is currently at the sun-orbiting perch, which is 1 million miles away from Earth. The telescope arrived at the destination in January 2022 and is anticipated to begin scientific information processing in the summer.
Outer space holds many secrets and mysteries, and due to the Hubble Space Telescope, NASA has managed to continue to unravel those secrets. What do you think the Webb telescope could discover? Could there be stars even older and further away than Earendel?
Wall Street Journal