The JWST has photographed a distant star whose light has traveled almost 13 billion years to reach our world.
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to make incredible discoveries as it peers into the vastness of our universe. Not only is Webb helping us better understand how our universe formed and how galaxies came into being, but the space telescope should also help astronomers better understand exoplanets across the galaxy and possibly even aid in the search for extraterrestrial life forms.
Hubble’s successor, as NASA calls it, has also given us an unprecedented view of galaxies, galactic clusters and even planets in our solar system.
Today the JWST spotted a star whose light has traveled nearly 13 billion years to reach our world.
A star that was announced just a few months ago by the JWST’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, has been observed by the James Webb Space Telescope.
This is the deep field image taken by the James Webb Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA, ESA, CSA and STScI.
The gravitational lensing effect in the Hubble Space Telescope’s deep field image led to the discovery of Earendel, named after a character from JRR Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ prequel, The Silmarillion.
The oldest and most distant star discovered so far is Earendel (WHL0137-LS). Earth is 28 billion light-years away. She is almost twice as far away as Icarus (MACS J1149 Lensed Star 1), the previous record holder.
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, a group of astronomers posted a tweet containing an image of the faint star whose light traveled 12.9 billion light-years to reach Earth.
While some may think Earendel is the bright, spiky star in the recent photo, it’s not, and here’s its actual location. Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI.
You can get an idea of where to look thanks to the zoomed-in cutout of the original Hubble image. In essence, Earendel is a tiny whitish speck within a cluster of distant galaxies. The elusive Earendel can be found by comparing Hubble’s image to Webb’s.
“We are thrilled to share the first JWST image of Earendel, the most distant known star in our universe, which is smoothed and magnified by a massive galaxy cluster,” the Cosmic Spring astronomers wrote in a tweet . stating that the sightings took place on Saturday (July 30).
This tweet refers to the gravitational lensing effect, which is nature’s way of helping astronomers. In this effect, light from objects behind extremely massive bodies, such as galaxy clusters and black holes, is bent. Therefore, light is amplified, but also distorted, as it passes near such a body, just as it would pass through the lens of a telescope. Hubble and Webb can therefore see further and in more detail using the gravitational lens.
This telescope is designed to discover galaxies that emerged from the Dark Ages after the Big Bang, when the universe was a few hundred million years old.
A rim of young star-forming regions called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula can be seen in front of these “mountains” and “valleys,” speckled with twinkling stars. For the first time, NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope is capturing infrared images to reveal previously invisible star birth regions. Image credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI
However, the first generation of suns that formed around this time were thought to be impossible to observe individually. It is however possible to see details within the first stellar groupings by using the gravitational lens.
If you look at the night sky, you probably won’t see Earendel; even the gravitational lens is not strong enough to make it visible. Also known as WHL0137-LS, Earendel is located in the constellation Whale.