It’s been an impressive year for astronomy as scientists broke records for the most distant star and galaxy ever discovered.
The distant objects were spotted even without the help of the groundbreaking new James Webb Space Telescope, which is preparing for its first scientific observations later this year and potentially allowing us to comb parts of the Universe that are farther away than ever before.
Until then, news week has compiled a list of some of the most distant objects ever found.
This year, an international team of researchers announced they had discovered what they believe to be the most distant galaxy ever found.
Located 13.5 billion light-years away, HD1 is a candidate galaxy discovered after researchers spent more than 1,200 hours looking through various telescopes.
Little is known about this so far. The team that discovered HD1 suspect it may have been rapidly forming some of the very first stars in the universe – considering that when we look at distant objects we see them as they were in the past rather than as they are now are. Another theory says it contains a supermassive black hole.
Finding out more about it will be difficult, according to Fabio Pacucci, co-author of two articles describing HD1. “It’s like guessing a ship’s nationality from the flag it flies while it’s far away on land and the ship is in the middle of a storm and heavy fog,” he said in a Harvard University press release.
It is hoped that upcoming telescopes like Webb will help further study galaxies like HD1.
On March 30, NASA announced that the Hubble Space Telescope was used to discover the most distant single star ever seen.
The star is called Earendel, which means “morning star” in Old English. It is about 12.9 billion light-years away and is estimated to be at least 50 times the mass of the Sun.
Scientists believe the star existed within the first billion years of the Universe, giving us valuable insight into very early star formation.
Astronomer Brian Welch of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and lead author of the article describing the discovery told NASA: “The study of Earendel will be a window into an era of the universe that we are not familiar with, but that led to everything we know. “
The paper was published in the journal Nature.
Most distant quasar
In January 2021, astronomers detailed the discovery of J0313-1806, a quasar 13.03 billion light-years from Earth.
The most distant quasar discovered is dated just about 670 million years after the Big Bang and contains a supermassive black hole with a mass of 1.6 billion suns, according to a University of Arizona press release.
Quasars are extremely bright astronomical objects thought to be the centers of young galaxies whose light is powered by gas that is rapidly spiraling into an extremely large black hole.
Most distant object explored
The latest is the most distant object ever studied by scientists up close: Arrokoth (2014 MU69), a small, icy object orbiting the sun 4.1 billion miles from Earth in a region of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt and behind it lies the orbit of Neptune.
Arrokoth was visited by the New Horizons probe in 2019 – a flyby that revealed its odd shape, which NASA has dubbed snowman-like. It also has a red tint.
Arrokoth are believed to be two objects merged into one. It measures about 22 miles from end to end and its name means “heaven” in the Powhatan/Algonquian language, according to NASA.