James Webb Unveils the Colors of the Farthest Star Ever Detected. NASA

James Webb Unveils the Colors of the Farthest Star Ever Detected

Fascinating what we can see thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope


An astounding revelation from the cosmos has just been made: the James Webb Space Telescope has shed light on the farthest star ever detected, known as Earendel. This distant wonder, situated within the Sunrise Arc galaxy, was unveiled by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), revealing tantalizing details of the universe’s early years.

Earendel’s Features: Hotter, Brighter, Farther

Earendel, a massive B-type star, surpasses our Sun’s heat by over two times and shines a million times more luminously. Detected only due to human technological prowess and a natural phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, Earendel’s discovery provides a snapshot of the universe just a billion years after the Big Bang.

A Magnified Perspective

This remote star’s position behind a wrinkle in space-time—created by the massive galaxy cluster WHL0137-08—has been crucial to its detection. This cluster, situated between Earth and Earendel, warps the very fabric of space. This warp acts like a cosmic magnifying glass, enabling astronomers to observe the star magnified by a factor of at least 4,000.

A Unique Discovery

The most distant star ever discovered. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA.
The most distant star ever discovered. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA.

While gravitational lensing has unveiled other celestial features, Earendel’s singular appearance as a pinpoint of light in Webb’s infrared imaging makes it an unprecedented find. It’s the most distant star ever detected, dating back to a billion years after the Big Bang, shattering the previous record detected by Hubble.


Companion Star: A Cooler, Redder Neighbor?

Earendel’s massive stature often indicates companion stars, yet Webb’s discovery revealed unexpected hints of a cooler, redder companion. This detection, only possible with Webb, adds intrigue to the star’s profile.

The Sunrise Arc: A Galaxy in Detail

Webb’s NIRCam has also unearthed impressive details in the Sunrise Arc, the most highly magnified galaxy from the universe’s initial billion years. From young star-forming regions to older star clusters, the details provided insight into the Milky Way’s ancient clusters, dating back 13 billion years.

Analyzing Composition and Distance

Further data from Webb’s Near-Infrared Spectrograph (NIRSpec) instrument will soon reveal Earendel and Sunrise Arc galaxy’s precise composition and distance measurements.


A New Frontier in Stellar Physics

Since Hubble first detected Earendel, Webb has identified other very distant stars, although none as remote as Earendel. These discoveries have expanded the universe’s exploration to stellar physics, offering fresh subjects for early universe scholars. There’s a cautious optimism that this could pave the way to detecting one of the first-generation stars, composed of the raw elements birthed in the Big Bang: hydrogen and helium.

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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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