The light from the galaxy cluster MACS J1149.5+223 took five billion years to reach the optics of the Hubble Space Telescope. Image credit: NASA/ESA/S. Rodney/FrontierSN team/T. Treu/P. Kelly/GLASS/STScl
The most distant star has been spotted from more than halfway across the universe. The light from the enormous blue star, officially named MACS J1149.5+223 Lensed Star 1, but nicknamed ‘Icarus’, would never normally have been seen, even with the help of the world’s largest telescope. However, thanks to the help of a natural phenomenon known as ‘gravitational lensing’, NASA/ESA’s Hubble Space Telescope was able to detect the light from a star roughly nine billion years away, from a time when the universe was just 30 per cent its current age. These results will provide much needed information in the never-ending battle to understand dark matter.
As a result of Icarus’ discovery, studying individual stars through the medium of gravitational lensing provides rare and unique information about the foreground galaxy cluster, as well as how the most luminous stars evolve.
“This is the first time we’re seeing a magnified, individual star,” explains Patrick Kelly of the University of Minnesota. “You can see individual galaxies out there, but this star is at least ...