Wednesday, September 28, 2022

The James Webb Space Telescope has the first image of the farthest known star

13 billion years ago, a massive blue star illuminated the early universe.

Over the countless light years of the expanse of space, the light has shone, reduced to shadow wherever dust and rock met.

What was left of those ancient photons was blown out of shape by the evolution, warping, and bending of space as it engulfed the gravitational wells of intermediate stars and galaxies.

Finally, earlier this year, some of this light fell on the lens of a telescope orbiting a small, water-logged planet, giving us a look at a truly ancient star.

The images provided by Hubble were extraordinary. But the scientists who saw it said that this light is so special that it can be seen up close using a separate telescope.

Coded WHL0137-LS, although better known for its Tolkienesque name Arendelle, this star now holds the record for the first, most distant star we humans have had the privilege of seeing.

So on July 30, 2022, the James Webb Space Telescope turned its attention to the corner of the sky dominated by the constellation Cetus, where this dim, twisted arc of ancient sunlight was last seen.

Its dim rays are so bent out of shape, so thin and spread, it is difficult to tell much about the object that created them. So far we know that Arendelle is probably hot and large – somewhere between 50 and 100 solar masses. This makes it likely to burn rapidly, going out in the blink of an eye just millions of years after it first came to life in a supernova.

Ignited about 900 million years after the Big Bang, it is unlikely to be one of the earliest stars in the universe, though still emerged at a time when heavier elements were somewhat rare.

What we can learn from its spectrum will have to wait a bit longer. With JWST deciphering details that the Hubble Space Telescope cannot, astronomers may soon be able to glean some more clues about this new record holder.

Arendelle’s tired light has traveled so far to get here. Whatever it has to say, we’re sure it’s worth waiting a little longer to hear.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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