A study in Nature Astronomy has reported the discovery of a star that is the farthest away from Earth ever recorded at a distance of an incredible 9 billion lightyears.
The faint light in a distant galaxy has been found by a team of researchers led by Patrick Kelly, who have named the star Iracus. Detecting a star that far away from our planet is no easy feat. Galaxies are less of a challenge, as the billions of stars create an observable glow, but individual stars rarely shine bright enough for us to find. Searches of deep space for these celestial objects take a long time and expensive equipment. However, Iracus’ illumination had been magnified by 2000 times due to the gravity of a larger object positioned in from of it due to a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. The international team had been focussed on observing MACS J1149+2223; a galaxy cluster 9 billion lightyears away. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, they noticed a flickering light in the background of their original target that upon investigation revealed itself to be a blue star. It’s an exciting discovery – not only due to its distance, but also because it is important to the scientists studying dark matter. The pattern of magnified stars presented in the study have meant they are able to exclude the hypothesis that dark matter is composed of mostly black holes.
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