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A star named Icarus: U of M researchers discover farthest star ever seen

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Icarus is the farthest individual star ever seen.
Icarus is the farthest individual star ever seen. It is only visible because it is being magnified by the gravity of a massive galaxy cluster, located about 5 billion light-years from Earth.
NASA, ESA, and P. Kelly (University of Minnesota)

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have set an astronomical distance record — they've spotted the farthest individual star ever seen.

Detected with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, and nicknamed Icarus, it's 9.3 billion light years from earth.

Patrick Kelly, a U of M assistant professor of physics and astronomy, led the international research team that made the discovery in 2016.

In a spiral galaxy, the star is 100 times farther than the star that previously held the record. "It's about 36 trillion miles and also three quarters of the way back to the birth of universe and Big Bang. So it's kind of unimaginable," Kelly said.

Kelly said the star is twice as hot as the sun and a million times as luminous.

Icarus may tell researchers something about the early universe, too. "Kind of a direct connection to what our universe was like when it was much younger, and it's very tangible," Kelly said. "Before we were only able to see the mixture of light of millions of stars at once. So this is a much more direct connection to the early stages of the universe."