Four Notable Things About the Most Distant Star Scientists Have Ever Glimpsed

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Between the glowing blue and yellow swirls of distant galaxies, this tiny pinprick of light doesn’t look like much: a white smudge on the infinite black of the universe.

But this tiny speck has enormous significance for astronomers. It’s the most distant star ever seen, affording astronomers a glimpse back in time.

Images showing how astronomers spotted the most distant star imaged, which was not visible in 2011 but popped up in 2016 thanks to gravitational lensing.
Icarus, the most distant star ever imaged, wasn’t visible in previous years (2011); it was only thanks to gravitational lensing that it twinkled into view (2016). Image credit: NASA, ESA, P KELLY/University of Minnesota

The star, MACS J1149+2223 Lensed Star 1 (more simply known as “Icarus”) was about 9 billion light years away when it emitted the light now reaching Earth. Most other objects spotted at this distance are either galaxies or exploding stars (AKA supernovas), which produce much more light than this distant glimmer.

Thanks to the constant expansion of the universe, Icarus would now be much further away from our planet; by now, it’s probably gone supernova itself, and formed either a black hole or neutron star. (For why we can still view it, though, see #3.)

Here are four things you should know about this distant galactic neighbor, and why we’re just seeing it for the first time.

1. Spotting Icarus was a stroke of good luck

Icarus is so far away that we technically shouldn’t be able to see it: it’s about 100 times further away than the most distant star telescopes have been able to view before now. Fortunately, astronomers got a little bit of help from the universe in spotting it (and the Hubble telescope, props to that).

Icarus was visible because of an astronomical phenomenon called gravitational lensing. In short, the gravity of large, stacked-up celestial objects (in this case, a cluster of galaxies) bend light, creating a magnifying glass-effect for anything behind them. Overall, researchers told The Guardian, Icarus was magnified more than 2,000 times.

Icarus also got a special boost from an extra-magnifying star within the galaxy cluster, making it appear four times brighter over the course of the time the astronomers studied it. Thank you, physics.

2. The star is a blue supergiant

Icarus would be an oddity in the universe — if it were still around. Analysis of the star’s light showed it was a blue supergiant, one of the hottest and highest-mass stars we know of; the blue supergiant Rigel A, the bright left “foot” of the constellation Orion, is 23 times more massive than the sun, and estimated to be several hundred thousand times brighter.

Stars like Icarus and Rigel are rare in the universe today, but in the early universe, they were common; according to io9, most of the early stars were blue supergiants at some point in their lives.

That makes sense, since Icarus’ distant light is actually somewhat like a time machine.

3. Icarus gives a view back in time

The universe is way, way bigger than you can probably comprehend. And because of this astronomical (sorry) size, it can take a really long time for light to reach Earth from the cosmic wilderness. Even traveling at its immense speeds, by the time light from this distant star reached Earth, 9 billion years had passed.

When Icarus released the photons currently hitting the Hubble’s cameras, Earth hadn’t even formed yet — it would be another 4.4 billion years before our solar system even began to coalesce from the dust of the universe. Such distant views of the universe are helping astronomers learn about what the universe was like before our time, even giving us glimpses back to the moments after the Big Bang.

4. The view let scientists test dark matter theory

The Guardian reports that the team also used their view of Icarus to test a theory about dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up 27 percent of the universe (its counterpart, dark energy, makes up another 68 percent). One theory proposed that dark matter was made of black holes, but what the researchers saw of Icarus didn’t support that theory — looking back at a decade of Hubble images, they didn’t see Icarus’ brightness vary over time. If the black-hole-dark-matter theory was correct, the star would have appeared brighter.

In the coming years, scientists hope to peer even further into our universe’s history with more powerful telescopes, like the James Webb Space Telescope and the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST). Recent budget cuts from the White House threatened the future of WFIRST. If the government was unsure just how much these space telescopes could accomplish, this discovery from their predecessor might serve as an apt reminder.

The post Four Notable Things About the Most Distant Star Scientists Have Ever Glimpsed appeared first on Futurism.

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22 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/28/18 – 4/3/18)

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Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android games that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Games

MARVEL Strike Force

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22 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/28/18 – 4/3/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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10 new and notable Android apps from the last week (3/27/18 – 4/2/18)

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roundup_icon_largeWelcome to the roundup of the best new Android applications that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Apps

Browsery by Barnes & Noble

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10 new and notable Android apps from the last week (3/27/18 – 4/2/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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39 new and notable Android TV apps and games from the last 8 months (7/12/18 – 3/31/18)

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android_tv_expansion Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android TV apps and games that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the last few months or so. Due to how large this list is, it has been broken up into two pages. The first page lists only ATV apps, and the second page is made up entirely of ATV games.

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39 new and notable Android TV apps and games from the last 8 months (7/12/18 – 3/31/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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17 new and notable Android apps from the last week (3/20/18 – 3/26/18)

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roundup_icon_largeWelcome to the roundup of the best new Android applications that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Apps

Just a Line – Draw Anywhere, with AR

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17 new and notable Android apps from the last week (3/20/18 – 3/26/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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WIt4m3OWith Google’s recent push for augmented reality content on Android through the use of ARCore, I thought it would be fun to collect all of the new AR games that released in the last couple of weeks into one of our gaming roundups. So without further ado, here are the most recent and notable AR games to hit the Play Store.

AR Smash Tanks!

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30 new and notable augmented reality games from the last two weeks (3/7/18 – 3/23/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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30 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/14/18 – 3/20/18)

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Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android games that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Games

Florence

Android Police coverage: Florence is an emotional game about relationships by Monument Valley’s lead designer, and now it’s out for Android

Florence is a narrative-driven game that follows along with the protagonist as she discovers the ins and outs of her newest relationship.

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30 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/14/18 – 3/20/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

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How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

roundup_icon_largeWelcome to the roundup of the best new Android applications and live wallpapers that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Apps

Express Wi-Fi by Facebook

Android Police coverage: Express Wi-Fi by Facebook connects you to local hotspots in developing countries [APK Download]

Express Wi-Fi by Facebook is a new app for developing countries that aims to connect users to public hotspots offered by the company for a fee.

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15 new and notable Android apps and live wallpapers from the last week (3/13/18 – 3/19/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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5 notable game listings on the Play Store that you can pre-register for today

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With so many games that land on the Play Store as pre-registration listings, sometimes it can be challenging to keep track of the better titles. I usually ignore the majority of them since most aren’t really worth mentioning, but when you consider that GDC is only 4 days away, there are a few titles that have been making the rounds that are actually worth talking about, which is what this post is all about.

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5 notable game listings on the Play Store that you can pre-register for today was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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24 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/7/18 – 3/13/18)

How Complete Beginners are using an ‘Untapped’ Google Network to create Passive Income ON DEMAND

Welcome to the roundup of the best new Android games that went live in the Play Store or were spotted by us in the previous week or so.

Please wait for this page to load in full in order to see the widgets, which include ratings and pricing info.

Looking for the previous roundup editions? Find them here.

Games

The Sims™ Mobile

Android Police coverage: After almost a year in testing, EA has officially released ‘The Sims Mobile’ on Android

The Sims Mobile takes the gameplay from EA’s mobile life simulation game The Sims FreePlay and adds on top some of the mechanics from The Sims 4.

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24 new and notable Android games from the last week (3/7/18 – 3/13/18) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

Cash For Apps: Make money with android app