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It is more than half a universe away, so far away that its light took 9 billion years to reach Earth.
Even so, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope managed to portray it.
It is called MACS J1149 + 2223 Lensed Star 1, but it has been nicknamed Icarus, in honor of the Greek mythological character who flew so close to the Sun that the wax of his wings melted.
Icarus is the most distant star ever photographed, said astronomers from NASA and the University of Minnesota, in an article published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.
“Normally, (Icarus) would be too weak to be seen, even with the largest telescopes in the world,” the US space agency said in a statement.
Copyright of the NASA / ESA / P IMAGE. KELLYImage caption
“But thanks to a rare phenomenon of nature that tremendously amplifies the weak brightness of the star, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to locate this distant star and set a new distance record,” he continued.
The phenomenon that allowed to observe this super giant blue star lodged in a distant galactic group is called “gravitational lens”.
A natural magnifying glass
“The gravity of a massive galaxy cluster in the foreground acts like a natural lens in space, doubling and amplifying light, ” NASA reported.
That light is what makes faint and distant objects shine enough to be portrayed, the agency added.
Copyright of the NASA imageImage caption
In the case of Icarus, the massive star cluster that operated on a natural magnifying glass and allowed to see it 2,000 times brighter is called MACS J1149 + 2223 and is 5 billion light years from Earth.
As a reference, this star is 100 times farther than any other observed individually, with the sole exception of giant supernova explosions.
Thanks to this image, they were able to identify Icarus as a supergiant blue star, a type that is “much bigger, massive, hot and possibly hundreds of thousands of times intrinsically brighter than our Sun”, explained NASA.
The main author of the study, astrophysicist Patrick Kelly, told Reuters : “Now we can study in detail what the universe was like and specifically how the stars evolved and what their nature was, almost from the beginning of the universe and the first generations of stars. “