An image of the farthest known star in the universe was captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
Called Earendel, named after a character in JRR Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” prequel “The Silmarillion”, he is nearly 28 billion light years from Earth.
This is over 10 billion light-years farther than the most distant stellar astronomers have seen.
At such enormous distances, experts can usually only distinguish entire galaxies, but a lucky coincidence allowed them to spot Earendel with the Hubble Space Telescope and then observe him again with Webb on July 30.
By comparing the Hubble image with the one captured by NASA’s new $ 10 billion (£ 7.4 billion) super space telescope, experts were able to find the elusive Earendel as a faint red dot beneath a cluster. of distant galaxies.
Far, far away: The farthest known star in the universe was captured by NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Earendel is nearly 28 billion light years from Earth and is shown here in this image where the white arrow is
Circled: Experts managed to find Earendel as a faint red dot under a cluster of distant galaxies
“We are thrilled to share Earendel’s first JWST image,” said a group of astronomers using the Cosmic Spring JWST Twitter account.
WHAT IS GRAVITATIONAL LENS?
Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies bends the light emitted from a more distant galaxy.
This forms a highly magnified, albeit highly distorted, image.
This is because massive objects bend spacetime around them, causing light to travel in a different path.
This theory was first proposed by Einstein in his theory of general relativity.
The star, whose light took 12.9 billion light-years to reach Earth, is so faint that it would be difficult to find without the help of Hubble, whose images are visible in ultraviolet versus Webb’s infrared light.
This example of the two telescopes working side by side is exactly what NASA had envisioned, despite Webb ultimately being seen as the successor to the famous Hubble.
“We are thrilled to share the first JWST image of Earendel, the farthest known star in our universe, photographed and magnified by a huge cluster of galaxies,” said a group of astronomers using the Cosmic Spring JWST Twitter account.
Their tweet refers to gravitational lenses, in which light was stretched into a long curve by the gravity of a cluster of galaxies closer to Earth.
This process enlarged the Sunrise Arc galaxy in which Earendel resides by a factor of more than 1,000, allowing astronomers to confirm with Webb that it is a single star and not a cluster of hundreds.
The star is visible because it is perfectly aligned with the galaxy cluster to provide the maximum possible magnification, the experts said.
“It’s a very lucky alignment,” Dan Coe, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, told New Scientist.
“No one has ever seen a star this magnified, let alone a galaxy.”
Since light takes time to travel, this new Webb image shows Earendel as he was about 900 million years after the Big Bang.
Tolkien’s character Eärendil was the inspiration for Earendel’s name, according to Brian Welch, a graduate student who led a team of astronomers at Johns Hopkins University in the discovery of the distant star.
“Once we were reasonably sure this object was a star, I started brainstorming possible names,” he said.
‘Eärendil was one of the first things that came to mind, as he ended up sailing his Vingilot ship through the skies with the Silmaril on his forehead, becoming a star and a symbol of hope on Middle-earth.
“Looking deeper, I found that Tolkien’s original inspiration for the character was an Old English word Earendel, meaning Morning Star.”
Welch added, “The ‘morning star’ reference worked particularly well, since this is a time period often called Cosmic Dawn, so that sealed the deal for me.”
At such enormous distances, experts can usually only distinguish entire galaxies, but a lucky coincidence allowed them to spot Earendel with the Hubble Space Telescope (pictured) and then observe him again with James Webb on July 30.
By comparing the Hubble image (pictured) with the one captured by Webb, the experts were able to find the elusive Earendel as a tiny reddish dot beneath a cluster of distant galaxies.
‘JWST was designed to study the first stars. Until recently, we assumed this meant populations of stars within early galaxies, ”astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland wrote in a recent article discussing gravitational lenses.
‘But in the past three years, three single strong lens stars have been discovered.
“This offers new hope of directly observing individual stars at cosmological distances with JWST.”
Astronomers hope that the next round of Webb observations for the Space Telescope Science Institute team, scheduled for December, will reveal what Earendel and the Sunrise Arc are made of.
“We’re all made of stars, but that stuff wasn’t around in the early universe,” Coe said.
“This is a rare opportunity to see if heavy elements were present in this star 13 billion years ago.”
As light takes time to travel, this new image from Webb (pictured) shows Earendel as he was around 900 million years after the Big Bang.
Last month, Webb’s dazzling and unprecedented images of a “stellar nursery”, a dying star cloaked in dust and a “cosmic dance” between a cluster of galaxies were revealed to the world for the first time.
It ended months of anticipation and anticipation as people around the world were treated to the first batch of a treasure trove of images that will culminate in the very first look at the dawn of the universe.
Webb’s infrared capabilities mean it can “see back in time” within just 100-200 million years of the Big Bang, allowing it to take photos of the very first stars to shine in the universe more than 13.5 billion years ago.
His first images of nebulae, an exoplanet and clusters of galaxies sparked a huge celebration in the scientific world, in what was hailed as a “great day for humanity”.
Researchers will soon begin to learn more about the masses, ages, histories and compositions of galaxies as Webb seeks to explore the universe’s earliest galaxies.
The James Webb Telescope: NASA’s $ 10 billion telescope is designed to detect light from the first stars and galaxies
The James Webb telescope has been described as a “time machine” that could help unravel the secrets of our universe.
The telescope will be used to look back at the first galaxies born in the early universe more than 13.5 billion years ago and observe the sources of stars, exoplanets and even moons and planets in our solar system.
The vast telescope, which has already cost more than $ 7 billion (£ 5 billion), is considered a successor to the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope
The James Webb Telescope and most of its instruments have an operating temperature of about 40 Kelvin, about minus 387 Fahrenheit (minus 233 Celsius).
It is the largest and most powerful orbital space telescope in the world, capable of peering back 100-200 million years after the Big Bang.
The orbiting infrared observatory is designed to be about 100 times more powerful than its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope.
NASA likes to think of James Webb as a Hubble successor rather than a replacement, as the two will work in tandem for a while.
The Hubble telescope was launched on April 24, 1990 via the space shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It revolves around the Earth at a speed of approximately 17,000 mph (27,300 km / h) in low Earth orbit at approximately 340 miles of altitude.