The James Webb Space Telescope has revealed the secrets of the most distant star in the universe

A zoomed line of sight observing the star Eärendil (NASA, ESA, Alyssa Pagan (STScI) / Handout via Reuters)

there A very distant star in the universe can be seen from Hubble Space Telescope Revised since last year. It is so special that experts say it is the farthest sun ever observed.

Now Hubble’s successor, the powerful James Webb Space Telescope, has continued those observations to focus on the star in the first billion years after the big bang. And his mighty machines nirkam (near infrared camera) Webb reveals that the a star Eärendel — discovered by Hubble in 2022 — is a massive B-type star, more than twice as hot as our Sun, and about a million times more luminous.

Earendel is located at Arc Dawn Galactic It can only be detected because of the combined power of human technology and nature through an effect called gravitational lensing. Hubble and Webb were able to spot Earendel because of its existence A lucky alignment behind a wrinkle in space-time They were created by the massive galaxy cluster WHL0137-08.

James Webb revolutionizes observations of our universe (Chris GUNN/NASA/AFP)

The cluster of galaxies, lying between us and Eärendel, is so massive that it warps the fabric of space itself, They produce a magnifying effect, allowing astronomers to look through the cluster like a magnifying glass, NASA reports. While other features in the galaxy appear many times due to gravitational lensing, Earendel only appears as a single point of light, even in Webb’s high-resolution infrared images.

Based on this, astronomers determined that the object is magnified by a factor of at least 4,000, and therefore very small: the most distant star ever discovered, observed a billion years after the Big Bang.

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The previous record holder for the farthest star was discovered by Hubble and watched around 4 billion years after the Big Bang. Another research team using Webb recently identified a gravitationally lensed star they called Quyllur, a red giant observed 3 billion years after the Big Bang.

Eärendel’s location in the universe (NASA)

Huge stars like Earendel often have companions. Earendel, named after a character from JRR Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” a prequel to the “Hobbit” and “Lord of the Rings” trilogies, may not be alone in deep space. NASA officials wrote that based on the star’s colors, “astronomers think they’re seeing indications of a cooler, redder companion.”

Having a partner wouldn’t be a surprise; Most massive stars like Eärendel are part of binary systems, Experts note that they did not initially expect Webb to reveal any companions to Earendel, as they would be so close together and indistinguishable in the sky.

This detected Eärendel light due to the expansion of the universe has been stretched into longer wavelengths than Hubble’s instruments can detect, so it was only detectable with Webb’s. Webb’s NIRCam also brings up another notable detail in the Dawn Arc, which It is the largest galaxy discovered so far In the first billion years of the life of the universe.

The space telescope took 20 years to build (Laura Betz/NASA via AP, File)

Features include young star-forming regions and larger, well-established star clusters 10 light years across. On either side of the maximum magnification crease, which runs through the Earendel, these features are reflected in the distortion of the gravitational lens. The star forming region appears elongated and is estimated to be less than 5 million years old. The smaller dots on either side of Eärendel are two images of an older, more established star cluster, estimated to be at least 10 million years old.

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Astronomers decided so This star cluster is gravitationally bound And it probably continues to this day. This shows us what the globular clusters of our Milky Way Galaxy looked like when they formed 13 billion years ago.

Astronomers are currently analyzing data from Webb’s NIRSpec (Near Infrared Spectroscopy) instrument observations of the Dawnbow and Eärendel galaxies, which will provide accurate composition and distance measurements of the galaxy. Since Hubble’s discovery of Earendelle, Webb has discovered other, much more distant stars using this technique Nothing like Earndale.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shows images from the James Webb Space Telescope (Bill Engels/NASA/AFP)

Discoveries have opened A new universe of stellar physics And a new topic for scientists studying the early universe, as galaxies were once the smallest cosmic bodies detectable. The research team hopes this will be possible A step towards the final reveal of one of the first generations of stars, It consists only of the raw ingredients of the universe that originated in the Big Bang: hydrogen and helium.

The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s premier space science observatory. Webb solves mysteries in our solar system, looks beyond the distant worlds around other stars, and investigates the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Canadian Space Agency.

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