A research team led by Brian Welch, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, United States, announced last Wednesday that they had found the farthest star from any known or known existence. They researched using the Hubble Telescope in space.
At 12.9 billion light-years from Earth, the star is technically labeled WHL0137-LS. As for Welch and his team popularized it with the name: Earendel. For lovers of J.R.R Tolkien’s fictitious novels such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Silmarillion,” that name is certainly well known.
In Old English, Earendel was a person’s name, but it could also mean ‘morning star’ or ‘morning star’. In Lord of the Rings, Eärendil is a half-elf character who sails the ocean carrying a gem or a ‘Silmaril’, called the morning star.
“This is a star whose name literally means that it comes from the very early, very early dawn of the period of star formation,” said Michelle Thaller of NASA. He added, “It’s the first star, the farthest star we’ve ever seen, and I think Earendel is a pretty name.”
Thaller was not part of the Welch team. However, Thaller represents the four science divisions at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center–Earth science, planetary systems, heliophysics and astrophysics. He estimated that Earendel wasn’t really a first-generation star. “Perhaps several tens of millions of years after the birth of the stars began.”
With these initial findings, Welch et al will now turn to the James Webb Telescope to study the properties of these stars and how they fit into the evolution of the universe. What is clear, this latest finding is a giant leap because the previous record for the farthest star was 9 billion light years, even Sky and Telescope said it was only 4 billion years.
Astronomers discovered galaxies that house distant stars in 2016 during the Reionization Lensing Cluster Survey (RELICS). The Welch-led team then followed up by recording additional images from Hubble in 2019.
The iconic observatory gets help from natural optics: the vast mass of foreground clusters of galaxies that lie between Earth and the distant star being observed. Acts like a lens, its gravitational force amplifies the star’s light a thousandfold.
Welch and his team published Earendel’s findings in the journal Nature March 31, 2022.