The most distant star ever to be discovered was recently located by astronomers using the Hubble telescope, with the research taking place at the University of Minnesota. The scientists were amazed upon realizing that it was an incredible 9 billion light-years away, a distance no other celestial body has ever achieved.
According to the Washington Post, the star’s official name is MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1, but it has affectionately been given the nickname Icarus by those who discovered it. Icarus is, of course, a famous character in Greek mythology who died after flying too close to the sun.
The discovery itself is said to have required the “fortuitous alignment of a massive galactic cluster”. Essentially what happened was; this cluster managed to warp the starlight, thus bending it towards planet Earth while at the same time magnifying the star itself a total of 2000 times.
University of Minnesota astrophysicist Patrick L. Kelly gave a statement in which he details just how amazing the discovery of this star is, given that Icarus is 100 times more distant than any other lone star which has been detected in the past. Most times, the only phenomena that can be detected at such far distances are supernovas or entire galaxies.
More than halfway across the universe, an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus is the farthest individual star ever seen. Using gravitational lensing, Hubble was able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record: https://t.co/eylSuu296c pic.twitter.com/DxbV3YCQNr
— Hubble (@NASAHubble) April 2, 2018
Kelly went on to admit that when he began his research for the project, he had not set out to find any kind of rare star but rather to simply see what was out there, given that the discoveries of such groundbreaking celestial bodies such as Icarus happen almost once in a lifetime. The basis of their study was, in fact, a rare supernova titled SN Refsdal, of which they were examining via Hubble images.
However, two years ago these researchers located a blip in the same galaxy which housed the supernova being studied. This blip did not, in fact, turn out to be another supernova as the scientists had predicted, but rather a blue supergiant star. The details of their discovery were published just two days ago, in the journal Nature Astronomy.
A supergiant star is, as its name would attest to, one of the largest and brightest stars in the sky, occupying the top region of the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram, with a visual magnitude sitting between minus three and minus eight, with temperatures ranging around 3500 K to over 20,000 K. Currently, the brightest supergiant stars are Rigel, Deneb, Delta Cephei, Betelgeuse, Antares, and UY Scuti.
The latter three are all red supergiants, while Rigel is a blue-white and Deneb a white, with Delta Cephei belonging to prototype Cepheid variable. Rigel and Deneb are the brightest in their constellations, Orion and Cygnus respectively.