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Meet Icarus, the Most Distant Star Ever Seen

By David Reneke

Astronomers have spotted the most distant star ever seen as well as stunning auroras on Saturn.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

More than halfway across the universe, an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus is the most distant individual star ever seen. Normally it would be much too faint to view, even with the world’s largest telescopes, but through a quirk of nature that tremendously amplifies the star’s feeble glow, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope were able to pinpoint this faraway star and set a new distance record.

The star, harboured in a spiral galaxy, is so far away that its light has taken 9 billion years to reach Earth. It left there when the universe was about 30% of its current age. The discovery of Icarus through nature’s naturally occurring magnification boost has initiated a new way for astronomers to study individual stars in distant galaxies.

“This is the first time we’re seeing a magnified, individual star,” explained study leader Patrick Kelly, now of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. The cosmic quirk that makes this star visible is a phenomenon called gravitational lensing whereby gravity from a massive cluster of galaxies closer to Earth acts as a natural lens in space, bending and amplifying light.

Sometimes light from a single background object appears as multiple images. The light can be highly magnified, making extremely faint and distant objects bright enough to see.

In the case of Icarus, the magnified image is created...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.