The James Webb Space Telescope caught sight of the most distant known star in the universe, which was announced by scientists using Webb’s predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, just a few months ago.
The star called Earendelafter a character from the backstory of J. RR Tolkien The Lord of the Rings The Silmarillion was discovered thanks to gravitational lensing in Hubble Space Telescope deep field image. The star whose light took 12.9 billion light years to reach The Earthis so weak that it may be quite difficult to find it in the new one James Webb Space Telescope image that was posted on Twitter on Tuesday (August 2) by a group of astronomers using the account JWST Space Spring (opens in new tab).
The original Hubble image gives some guidance on where to look through the magnified crop. Essentially, Earendel is the small whitish dot under a group of distant ones galaxies. By comparing the Hubble image with the one taken by Webb, you can find the elusive Earendel.
We are excited to share the first JWST image of Earendel, the most distant star known in our universe, objectified and magnified by a massive galaxy cluster. It was observed on Saturday by the JWST 2282 program. pic.twitter.com/YoZZKRsdzfAugust 2, 2022
“We are excited to share the first JWST image of Earendel, the most distant star known in our universe, lensed and magnified by a massive galaxy cluster,” Cosmic Spring astronomers wrote in a tweet, noting that the observations were made on Saturday (July 30 ).
The tweet refers to gravitational lensing, which is nature’s aid to astronomers. The effect takes advantage of the fact that extremely massive bodies, such as galaxy clusters or supermassives black holes, deflect light from objects behind them. When light passes through such a body, it behaves as if it were passing through the lens of a telescope, being magnified, albeit distorted. Therefore, the use of gravitational lenses extends the reach of telescopes such as Hubble and Webb, allowing them to see further and in greater detail.
The web was designed to see the first galaxies that emerged in the young universe in the first hundreds of millions of years after the dark ages after Big bang. However, astronomers thought that it would not be possible to see individuals stars of this first generation of suns that formed at that time. But gravitational lensing may actually allow them to see these early star clusters in detail.
“JWST was designed to study the first stars. Until recently, we assumed this meant populations of stars within the first galaxies,” astronomers at the Maryland Space Telescope Science Institute, which operates Webb and Hubble, wrote in a recent paper (opens in new tab) discussion of technique. “But in the past three years, three individual strong lensing stars have been discovered. This offers new hope for directly observing individual stars at cosmological distances with JWST.”
Earendel, also known by its proper name WHL0137-LS, is located in the constellation of Cetusbut don’t expect to see it if you look up at the night sky—even gravitational lensing isn’t that powerful.