"Nobody’s ever seen a star this highly magnified, not to mention a galaxy."
Far, Far Away
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has snapped a photo of the most distant star in the known Universe some 12.9 billion light-years away — and even as a tiny dot, it's a sight to behold.
A group of astronomers, who go by the name Cosmic Spring JWST, posted the new image of the star named Earendel — which was named after a character in JRR Tolkien's novel "The Silmarillion" — to Twitter on Tuesday, pointing out that it's "the most distant star known."
You can see Earendel as it's lensed by the cluster, WHL0137-08, in the center of the image! Here is a zoom-in on the star itself! Stay tuned for an update from the science team! pic.twitter.com/3mfYZ0WTNg
— Cosmic Spring JWST (@CosmicSprngJWST) August 2, 2022
The image, which was taken by the James Webb telescope over the weekend, isn't technically the first time we've gotten a glimpse of the star.
Earendel was first spotted by the telescope's predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope, back in March. As NASA noted in a statement at the time, the star existed within the first billion years after the Big Bang.
The star is located within the Cetus constellation, which, in turn, is located in the Sunrise Arc galaxy, a galaxy named after its crescent shape.
The James Webb Space Telescope was able to spot the distant star thanks to gravitational lensing, taking advantage of massive galaxy clusters bending the light from objects behind them.
In fact, Earendel perfectly aligned with the cluster in front of it. "That’s a really lucky alignment," Dan Coe at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, and team member of the new discovery, told New Scientist. "Nobody’s ever seen a star this highly magnified, not to mention a galaxy."
It's an astonishing new record. In fact, the star is more than ten billion light-years more distant than the next-furthest star we've ever seen, according to New Scientist — and the James Webb space telescope is only getting started.
More on the Webb telescope: Incredible New James Webb Image Shows "Cartwheel Galaxy" in Glorious Detail