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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 recently discovered the earliest, most distant star ever seen. Nicknamed Earendel, it 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, magnifying smaller objects in the background. This effect also helped scientists find the previous record holder, Icarus. That star formed 9.4 billion years ago.

Earendel probably exploded a few million years after it formed. It took 12.9 billion years for its light to reach us. That the star existed so briefly makes its discovery even more incredible, according to astronomer Brian Welch. “We definitely just got lucky,” he says.