At first glance, it’s easy to miss a tiny, faint light hidden among a mesmerizing cluster of colorful stars.
But a new photo snapped by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has managed to make history.
The spacecraft was able to spot a blue ‘supergiant’ nine billion light years away.
The star, informally called ‘Icarus’, is the most distant single star ever to be observed by astronomers.
Scientists reported on the findings in a new paper published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Usually at such distances scientists can only image galaxies, collections of billions of stars such as our own Milky Way, or supernovas and gamma ray bursts, colossal cosmic explosions.
Beyond about 100 million light years it is impossible to make out individual stars even with the most powerful telescopes.
In this case, a rare cosmic alignment naturally magnified the supergiant more than 2,000 times, allowing astronomers to see it.
This phenomenon, called gravitational lensing, occurs when a massive galaxy or cluster of galaxies bend the light emitted from a more distant galaxy.
In effect, the galaxies act as a magnifying glass that can render dim far away objects visible.
‘For the first time ever, we’re seeing an individual normal star, not a supernova, not a gamma ray burst, but a single tablet star, a distance of nine billion light years,’ said Alex Filippenko, a co-author of the study.
‘These lenses are amazing cosmic telscopes’.
He added that other gravitational lensing alignments should allow more distant stars to be studied.
‘There are alignments like this all over the place as background stars or stars in lensing galaxies move around, offering the possibility of studying very distant stars dating from the early universe, just as we have been using gravitational lensing to study distant galaxies,’ said Prof Filippenko.
‘For this type of research, nature has provided us with a larger telescope than we can possibly build’.
The B-type blue supergiant star is hundreds or even thousands of times brighter than the sun.
It was discovered in Hubble Space Telescope images snapped over the course of a year between April 2016 and 2017.
Continue Reading: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/