Astronomers have successfully detected the farthest individual star ever, all thanks to NASA’s Hubble telescope. The star, which has been named Icarus, is located at an astounding 9 billion light-years from Earth, which is close to the age of the universe at 13.8 billion years old.
Back in April 2016, the Hubble telescope captured images of the most distant galaxy ever, Gn-Z11, which is located around 13.4 billion light-years away. Galaxies are comparatively bigger and brighter and so they are easy to locate. But, it is very difficult to detect individual stars within them because of their faint light. In fact, stars are impossible to see individually after a distance of about 100 million light-years away.
The international research team led by led by Patrick Kelly found the star, nicknamed Icarus, through gravitational lensing. The phenomenon occurs when a massive galaxy cluster or other object bends light coming from distant objects behind it, making dim objects appear much brighter from Earth’s perspective.
Fortunately, in this case, the newly discovered star, MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1 (LS1), was magnified more than 2,000 times because a star was briefly passing through the line of sight between Hubble and Icarus.
“This is the first time we’re seeing a magnified, individual star,” said Patrick Kelly, the research team leader. “You can see individual galaxies out there, but this star is at least 100 times farther away than the next individual star we can study, except for supernova explosions.”
It is claimed that LS1 is almost 100 times far away from the next individual star that can be studied. Astronomers initially discovered the star when they used Hubble to detect and track a known supernova named Refsdal.
They noted that there was a flickering light in the background while observing the cluster. On closely observing the flickering light source, they found that it was not a supernova as originally thought but actually a blue star.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Astronomy.