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Webb space telescope glimpses most distant star known to exist

The Earendel star, as glimpsed by the James Webb Space Telescope, is the most distant star ever seen, 12.9 billion light-years from Earth. Photo courtesy of NASA, ESA/Cosmic Spring JWST
The Earendel star, as glimpsed by the James Webb Space Telescope, is the most distant star ever seen, 12.9 billion light-years from Earth. Photo courtesy of NASA, ESA/Cosmic Spring JWST

Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The most distant star known to exist in the universe has been spotted by the James Webb Space Telescope. It comes just months after scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope announced the star's existence.

Earendel, named after a Lord of The Rings character, was discovered using the Hubble's gravitational lensing ability. The star is 12.9 billion light-years away from Earth, the most distant object ever recorded, according to NASA.

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Gravitational lensing extends the range of telescopes by detecting objects through bent light from objects that are behind black holes. When the bent light passes by the black holes the light behaves as though it were passing through the telescope lens.

An image of the star, seen through the James Webb telescope, was released Tuesday by a group of astronomers at Cosmic Spring JWST.

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The Webb is the most powerful telescope ever launched into space and uses infrared technology to view objects farther away from Earth than previously possible.

"JWST was designed to study the first stars. Until recently, we assumed that meant populations of stars within the first galaxies," astronomers from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland wrote in a paper in May. "But in the past three years, three individual strongly lensed stars have been discovered."

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The astronomers said this "offers new hope of directly observing individual stars at cosmological distances."

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The JWST was designed to see the very first galaxies formed in the first hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang.

Earendel, known as WHL0137-LS, is in the constellation Cetus. It is not visible to the naked eye.

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