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across the universe

Researchers stumble upon farthest known star

Star light, star not-so-bright, first star I see two-thirds-of-the-way-across-the-universe tonight? Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have spotted the farthest known star, which is located approximately 9 billion light years away from Earth, Science News reports. Previously, the farthest observed star was a mere 55 million light years away.

Patrick Kelly of the University of California, Berkeley, stumbled upon the star when he was observing a galaxy cluster:

In April and May 2016, Kelly and his team saw a mysteriously fluctuating point of light in the galaxy cluster's vicinity.

Follow-up images and analyses, posted June 30 at arXiv.org, showed that light is probably from a single bright blue star that coincidentally was behind the galaxy cluster, aligned along Hubble's line of sight. The star is visible because the galaxy cluster's gravity bent spacetime around the cluster, making it act like a cosmic magnifying glass. [Science News]

With a little more calculation, the researchers realized the light from the star had to zip through a whole 65 percent of the entire universe before it could be seen by eyeballs on Earth, a journey that takes about nine billion years — more than half the age of the universe itself, which is estimated to be 13.8 billion years old, Science News adds. Some additional perspective from Syfy Wire: Nine billion light years is more than a million times farther than any star you can possibly see with your naked eye.