Using gravitational lensing, the Hubble Space Telescope was able to capture the farthest star from Earth, Icarus. Two separate studies offer details on the star located 9 billion light-years from us.
Gravitational lensing is very handy when observing such distant objects because it can magnify a galaxy by up to 50 times. In Icarus’ case, the space observatory was able to magnify the picture 2,000 times. It is the first time that researchers spot a star that was not the result of a supernova at such great distances.
Lead author of one of the studies Patrick Kelly explained that Icarus is located more than 100 times farther from the second farthest star. Researchers found that the star was “twinkling” which suggests that the presence of either a bright blue variable star or a stellar microlensing event.
Icarus Is “Quite Luminous”
Researchers explained that the lensing effect was achieved with help from a cluster of galaxies, not just one galaxy as it is usually the case. The cluster of galaxies enhanced the effect dramatically.
In normal scenarios, gravitational lensing occurs when couple of galaxies align along an observatory’s line of sight. The first galaxy’s gravitational field magnifies the brightness of the farther galaxy just like a lens. The method is used by astronomers to discover new exoplanets, determine the shape of stars, and assess the levels of dark matter in a galaxy.
- In Icarus’ case, a cluster of galaxies offered the lensing effect, which led to an extreme magnification of the distant star.
- The cluster of galaxies caused the brightness of Icarus to fluctuate during the observations.
- Scientists described the newly found star as “quite luminous” when taking into account the distance.