Another target successfully captured by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This time, the equipment obtained an image of Earendel, the most distant star ever seen in the Universe.
Earendel is located 12.9 billion light years from Earth. It is among the oldest stars in the cosmos, having formed just 900 million years after the Big Bang. Its name comes from Old English and means “morning star” or “rising light”.
It is not the first time that scientists have seen the star. The Hubble Space Telescope photographed the star in March of this year. See the comparison between the two images published by the research team Cosmic Spring:
Watch these galaxies brighten and appear as the Hubble image fades into the JWST image of the same galaxy cluster. pic.twitter.com/FkfGOrfAS7
— Cosmic Spring JWST (@CosmicSprngJWST) August 2, 2022
Observing the star was only possible because Earendel is located next to a second celestial field that behaves like a natural magnifying glass. The explanation is simple: the star is inside the Sunrise Arc galaxy. This, in turn, is influenced by another cluster of galaxies, which distorts the object due to its gravitational attraction.
The process known as gravitational lensing allows Sunrise Arc to be magnified by a factor of over 1000, making Aerendel’s vision possible. Now, scientists have the rare opportunity to look at the elements that formed the Universe’s first stars.
Aerendel is 50 times the mass of the Sun and millions of times brighter. Researchers believe that the first stars that appeared after the Big Bang had a different composition from those that shine in the sky today. The study of its raw material should start in December 2022.