Humans have been studying the night sky ever since the dawn of man. Religions, inventions and the way we view and understand our planet and its place in the universe have all been based on observing stars, constellations and planets. As technology has improved throughout the years, so too has our ability to observe. We can see objects in space more clearly.
We can also see objects much further away.
The Hubble Space Telescope has made much of that distant observation capable, and recently the telescope delivered again as scientists were able to observe the most distant star ever recorded by man. This new star, named MACS J1149 LS1, is so far away that the light observed by the researchers was actually generated 9.4 billion years ago—it just took that long to get to us.
The star, which is being referred to as “LS1,” was also a sort of accidental finding as researchers weren’t really looking for it. They were observing a recent supernova explosion in a distant galaxy known as MACS J1149.5-223 when they noticed an object in the telescope that was emitting a blue light from somewhere beyond the galaxy. That blue light turned out to be LS1. The ability to see the distant star can be contributed to something known as gravitational lensing which, for obvious reasons, has been brought to the forefront of many research projects.
This gravitational lensing occurs when light from an object is bent as a result of a nearby object’s gravitational pull. This bending magnifies the light, allowing for the sources to be observed from a much further distance, as was the case with LS1. It marks the first time in history that an individual star has been observed in this manner.
LS1 is so far away that the next closest star we’re actually able to observe is 100 times closer. If that doesn’t impress you, consider that it translates to about nine billion light years. While we don’t know much about the star itself at this point, you can bet that researchers are excited about the discovery, as well as the potential gravitational lensing could bring to the field of astronomy.