On March 30, 2022 a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins University led by Brian Welch broke a record by discovering the farthest star ever seen. This star was detected using NASA’s Hubble space telescope and it is around 12.9 billion light-years away from Earth, beating the previous record which was 9 billion light-years away. This means that the light from this star took 12.9 billion years to reach Earth.

Typically when looking at galaxies such a large distance away from Earth, the light from all of the stars blend together making the galaxy look like a little dim smudge. In this case, the galaxy containing this star was magnified due to gravitational lensing creating what astronomers have now named the “Sunrise Arc”. Gravitational lensing happens when an object of a large mass warps the fabric of space creating a “magnifying glass” that distorts and amplifies the light of distant objects behind it. Here, the large mass is the star itself, estimated as being at least 50 times larger than our sun.

They named the star Earendel, meaning “the morning star” in Old English. “The light left Earendel when the universe was less than 1 billion years old,” according to Dr. Padi Boyd, Chief of NASA’s Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory. Differing from the stars we see every night up in the sky, Earendel is a star from the early stages of the universe, meaning looking at and researching this star can help us understand how stars have evolved since the beginning of time.

Finding this star helps astronomers find out more about a period of the universe that has yet to have been explored. “Studying Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are unfamiliar with, but that led to everything we do know,” as stated by NASA on their Twitter page. This star may be made up of different raw materials than what we know of now. Considering the age of this star, it could help us figure out more about everything leading up to how the universe came to be what it is now, and how the universe could change in the future.

Discovering this star is a great feat for not only the astronomers that found it, but also for astronomers everywhere who dedicate their lives to researching the universe’s upbringing, and galaxies other than our own. Discovering this star is the sign of a great new beginning in space research and it is a good sign that more fascinating discoveries are soon to come.