“Hubble Telescope Spots the Most Distant Star Ever Detected in Outer Space” – TTG

The Hubble Space Telescope detected Earendel after homing in on a magnified streak of light boosted by a nearby galaxy. NASA/ESA/Brian Welch (JHU)/Dan Coe (STScI)/Peter Laursen (DAWN)

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted the most distant single star ever detected in outer space. The star—dubbed Earendel from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning rising light or morning star—lies 12.9 billion light-years from Earth and formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang. Earendel is 8.2 billion years older than the Earth and Sun and 12.1 billion years older than when the first animals appeared on the planet, reports Rafi Letzter for the Verge. Earendel was described in a paper published this week in Nature. The study shines light on the youngest stars gleaming in the cosmos.

“When the light that we see from Earendel was emitted, the universe was less than a billion years old,” says study author Victoria Strait, an astronomer at the Cosmic Dawn Center in Denmark, in a statement. “At that time, it was 4 billion light-years away from the proto-Milky Way, but during the almost 13 billion years it took the light to reach us, the universe has expanded so that it is now a staggering 28 billion light-years away.”

Astronomers suspect that Earendel is even older than Icarus, the previous record-holder detected by Hubble in 2018. Icarus appeared in outer space 9.5 billion years ago, reports Jake Parks for Astronomy.

Officially known as WHL0137-LS, Earendel was detected by chance when a galaxy cluster aligned with the ancient star and was magnified through a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, a statement explains. Gravitational lensing can magnify distant objects when their light bends and travels along the gravitational curvature of the massive object like a galaxy or galaxy cluster, reports Michelle Starr for Science Alert.

As the light from the distant object bends, the far-away object appears distorted or smudged, but it is also duplicated and magnified. After detecting the light, astronomers can pinpoint where the magnified object is. When seeing objects from early in the universe, or cosmic dawn, the smears of detected light are usually galaxies, per Science Alert. The Hubble telescope detected Earendel after homing in on a magnified streak of light boosted by a nearby galaxy.

Within the galaxy, study author Brian Welch, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, found the primordial star sitting at the top of the lensing critical curve, or where the magnification is most intense, Science Alert reports. Before reaching the Hubble, the star near the critical point was magnified between 1,000 and 40,000 times. The galaxy was dubbed the Sunrise Arc because of the gravitational lensing effect that made it appear as a long crescent shape, the Verge reports.


Comment: This is just one more example of a concept that is clearly beyond my grasp. Laying on the ground on a dark, clear night to gaze at the full Moon and maybe pick out the various constellations is my kind of astronomy. This talk of gravitational lensing just boggles my mind. And that image above from the Smithsonian article, with the squiggly magnification line, could be an April Fools’s Day joke for all I know.  I doff my cap to these high end astronomers. The other articles linked to this “Smithsonian” article shed some more light on these concepts. I hesitate to tackle the more technical “Nature” article, but why not? FIDO.


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20 Responses to “Hubble Telescope Spots the Most Distant Star Ever Detected in Outer Space” – TTG

  1. KjHeart says:

    I find astronomy pretty awesome

    I cannot wrap my brain around the concept of the actual age of that star mentioned in the Smithsonian article. It is truly stunning,

    Much closer to home, On March 30th, our Sun had an X-1. 3-Class Solar Flare that is sending a glancing blow off our atmosphere over North and South America.

    Today, April 2nd there is a possibility of geomagnetic storm with this flare – most interesting is that an amateur astronomer in New Mexico was able to record the radio burst that came from this CME – it is intense to listen to. Ironically the radio burst will be broken up by the Geomagnetic activity because radio waves and CME’s cancel each other out. Right Place Right time to get that radio wave recording, (Hat Tip to Thomas Ashcroft of New Mexico)


    I am an amateur scanner listener and am noticing the airwaves are breaking up a little. Thinking that people in South America may even see some auroras from this one.

    Hope pl gets better soon

    • TTG says:


      Amateur radio astronomy. I didn’t even know that was a thing. I’ll have to ask my older son about this. He’s heavily into amateur radio and the ARRL and spends a lot of weekends holed up in cabins in our state parks alone with his antennas for various competitions. This amateur radio astronomy may give him another reason for alone time in wilderness cabins.

      • KjHeart says:

        amateur scanner listening is interesting – at first it was too much for me – a LOT of things make radio waves out there – now I cannot stop – I just leave it at low volume and just pick up the ear piece if something is going

  2. Fred says:

    “8.2 billion years older than the Earth and Sun…”… “Details, like its exact brightness, mass, temperature, and type of star, remain uncertain, …”

    It really makes one wonder about the economic and political decisions being used based off less than 100 years of mostly inaccurate data, i.e. climate change.

    • blue peacock says:

      Precisely Fred. Our extrapolation based on limited data to drive political decision making is all about axes to grind for the powerful.

      There has been a constituency for doom mongering for a long time in our human history. I recall in the 70s papers in the Food & Agricultural Organization about impending famine and how 30% of the world’s population wouldn’t survive. And so on. Recall Gore’s planet emergency dates? None of these guys cut back on their personal energy use. The biggest being the Davos crowd jetting in on their personal jets and lecturing us.

  3. Leith says:

    I’m also a fan of naked eyeball astronomy. When younger I could easily pick out five planets. Not so much anymore with my eyesight going myopic. Tried like hell to see Neptune with my cheapo pair of B&L binoculars when it was in opposition last year. Can’t say whether I spotted it or whether it was just a floatie.

    • KjHeart says:

      Leith – if you can fine even ONE constellation you can find what ancient astronomers called ‘fixed stars’ they are not really fixed – simply traveling through the universe at a similar rate as planet Earth – still, for all purposes – they will not in our lifetime move more than one degree. If you can find ONE constellation you will never get lost at night time. Add to it the sunrise and sunset and we can geolocate ourselves anywhere, any time.

  4. Polish Janitor says:

    This is extremely important from many perspectives. First because it can shed light on the composition of the very first starts that were formed shortly after the big bang, confirming our theories of star evolution. Second, it is possibly the first-known highly-probably candidate for the population III star category, meaning that this is a very very big ass star of its own close to approx. ~100 solar masses (probably even more!) which is absolutely insane and even rather challenging to our current models of star-formation and evolution containing exclusively hydrogen and helium (the latter to a lesser degree) and no higher-mass elements like oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, etc…
    It should be reminded that we have managed to capture the light of this star after it had travelled close to 30 billion light years (with the added red-shift variable of the expansion of the universe in light-years terms) and the most likely scenario for our current multi wave-length telescopes to have been able to achieve this once-in-a-life-time feat is because it must have been an exploding star (a hypernova due to the extremely high mass) and so we are most likely seeing the light of the explosion not the regular luminosity of the surface of the star itself. These fascinating high-mass stars do not last more than a few million light-years and are almost guaranteed to undergo hypernova-the most powerful kind of explosion in the universe- and ultimately the core collapses to a monstrous black-hole that can not only trigger a chain-reaction of nearby explosions but also merge with other black-holes ultimately raching billions of solar masses monstrosities. The more we go back into distant universe the more we are able to detect these ‘unusual’ astronomical objects (quasars, Gamma-Ray Bursts, Galaxy mergers, giant stars, star-bursting galaxies that essentially are akin to factories for supernovas that produce all kinds of funky-stuff. It is for this reason that the more we go back into time we see larger black-holes (30 billion solar masses for example which is insane compared to ur own’s 50-100 million solar masses located in Sagittarius X at the center of the Milky Way) because at these insane distances all kinds of explosions and mergers and supernovae (and hypernovae) are more prevalent that rather boring nearby distances.

    Fun fact regarding star explosions: There is this star in the constellation of Carinae called “Eta Carinae” in the southern hemisphere that is very unusually heavy and astronomers think will go hyoernova in a few thousand decades. If the gamma burst radiation of Eta Carinae’s hypernova happens to (againt all odds!) align with the direction of our solar system and reaches us it is bye bye sentient life and human civilization!

    With regard to gravitational lensing, it is a very fun and fascinating topic. The gist of it is that if the light of an object happens to pass through he direction of a very heavy object (think of a galaxy, quasar, radio-galaxy), the light of the object passing through will be ‘distorted’ or ‘lensed’ due to the effect of gravity and the way it ‘bends’ light particles. This like an astronomical ‘cheating’ because the light of a star is magnified and amplified under the influence of the heavier object that it is passing through and ulitmately allows us to detect very very distant objects, be it a star, a galaxy, a quasar, etc. Another important thing to note about this ‘gravitational’ lensing phenomenon is that astronomers believe, “Dark Matter” has a tremendous but largely-unknown ‘hidden hand’ in affecting gravitational lensing of objects because of the inherent strong gravitational “nature” of the dark matter on light particles that we cannot see but can only see the gravitational handworks it leaves in the deep universe.

    I recommend visiting the below Wikipedia page of unusually-shaped galaxies that exist only in far distances and they are fascinating and just fun to look at:

    On gravitational lensing, see this insane ‘double lensing’ phenemenon:

    • TTG says:

      Polish Janitor,

      You certainly seem to know a few things about this stuff. Thanks.

      • Polish Janitor says:

        During my teenage years I was very deep into astronomy and astrophysics and these were all old stuff from when I had time and interest to read the literature. But hey man, I wish I know even ten percent of your military and warfare knowledge, especially nowadays which surely come in handy in terms of making sense of what’s going. I usually try to read your comments and insights and learn a thing or two when I check up on the blog.

    • Christian J. Chuba says:

      “First because it can shed light on the composition of the very first starts that were formed shortly after the big bang, confirming our theories of star evolution”

      Funny how the formation of stars and galaxies is always in that spot that we cannot see. The oldest light we get, shows mature stars and galaxies. How do we know that the universe is 14 billion years old (give or take a billion)? Maybe it is 100 billion and we are just a part of a long chain. We keep looking at the conveyor belt and see no end.

  5. joe90 says:

    The grift going on in science is amazing, just look at the numbers they expect people to believe!

    • TTG says:


      Are you one of those flat earthers?

      • LeaNder says:

        Considering, that Lemaitre, Leavitt, Hubble and expansive space may be behind the “concept[?] that is clearly beyond my grasp” this feels a bit patronizing.
        ( with all due respect, of course. 😉 )

        • TTG says:


          Not patronizing, just an acknowledgement of my limitations. I can understand an expanding universe, but light from a star bent by a gravitational lens millions of years ago that we’re now seeing, as I said, boggles my mind.

          • LeaNder says:

            It might boggle Joe90’s mind. But yes, the idea that scientists collectively are grifters, is a bit irritating. 😉

  6. blue peacock says:

    If this is what Hubble let’s us observe, imagine what Webb will allow us from this summer on.

    The more I contemplate this I’m reminded of Carl Sagan and his exhortation that what we have on Earth is amazingly coincidental or providential and we should really appreciate it.

  7. jim ticehurst says:

    It Was Amazing to me..as a Kid…For us Youngsters To Lay…. out in the Field..On Our Backs at Nite.. By The Barn..Full of Hay We Were All Sleeping In..And Watch a Sky Full of Bright Twinkling Stars.. And See The Moon..and Know There Were Other Planets Out There..Mars..Pluto..And Way Beyond The Milky Way…And Think About An Infinite Universe …That Went On and On And On..

    And Here We Are..60 Years Later…And Knowledge WAS Increased…And MANY are
    Running Too and Fro…And I Believe in a Living Creator..ike Many of This Nations Founding Fathers…And BETTER Presidents..

  8. KjHeart says:

    Leith – if you can find even ONE constellation you can find what ancient astronomers called ‘fixed stars’ they are not really fixed – simply traveling through the universe at a similar rate as planet Earth – still, for all purposes – they will not in our lifetime move more than one degree. If you can find ONE constellation you will never get lost at night time. Add to it the sunrise and sunset and we can geolocate ourselves anywhere, any time.

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