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Faraway Star Discovered

STARSTRUCK Earendel, at the point of the arrow, existed within a billion years of the formation of the universe. ALYSSA PAGAN (STSCI)—NASA/ESA

Astronomers have discovered the earliest, most distant star ever seen. It is nicknamed Earendel. The star formed about 13 billion years ago. It was spotted using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Earendel was made visible by an effect called gravitational lensing. That’s when gravity from a cluster of galaxies acts as a lens. This magnifies smaller objects in the background.

The effect also helped scientists find the previous record holder, Icarus. That star formed more than 9 billion years ago.

Earendel probably exploded a few million years after it formed. It took nearly 13 billion years for its light to reach us. In space terms, Earendel existed for just a brief time. That makes its discovery even more incredible, according to astronomer Brian Welch. “We definitely just got lucky,” he says.