back to article No chance of flying too close to this: Icarus, the most distant star seen, is 9bn light years away

Icarus, a gigantic bright blue star, is the farthest such body yet discovered by astroboffins, the Space Telescope Science Institute announced on Monday. The light emitted from the star takes a whopping nine billion years to reach Earth. It means that observers can see what Icarus looked like when the universe was about 30 …

  1. Jay Lenovo Silver badge

    Fresh antiquity

    Like watching great old movies....Only to realize that the actors, and maybe even their kids have long since passed away.

    Some gifts offer no returns. You can only pay it forward.

  2. Keef

    Douglas said it best.

    Space is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space.

    1. rgmiller1974

      Re: Douglas said it best.

      Douglas Adams' description is pretty good, but I actually think Bill Bryson said it better in "A Short History of Nearly Everything": "Space is very aptly named."

      1. AndrueC Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Douglas said it best.

        Two of the best books I've read for creating an impression of the distances involved are Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky. Both talk about stellar empires being born, growing and dying without ever contacting any others. A Deepness.. talks about how you might attempt to grow an interstellar civilisation when FTL Travel is not possible.

        The final part of the last chapter of A Fire.. is particularly poignant. I also think the whole concept of Zones of Thought is pretty awesome.

  3. Jason Hindle

    I take it this star has lovely plumage?

    In the here and now?

    1. Grikath

      Re: I take it this star has lovely plumage?

      Blue supergiant... So at this time it's a black hole..

      1. Roger Varley

        Re: I take it this star has lovely plumage?

        Or it could have turned into a bowl of petunias and a surprised whale by now. Who knows?

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: I take it this star has lovely plumage?

      The plumage doesn't enter into it!

  4. ThatOne Silver badge
    Joke

    Nice to see something that is even further away than my next pay raise...

    1. larokus

      Farther when we reference a distance, and further when you reference length but not distance specifically. You've managed to reference both straddling the measure (something (the star,) and a paycheck)

      Does not compute!!

      *exploding robot head

  5. Lars Silver badge
    Pint

    How to kill light

    It's late, and I am about to switch off the light, but where does it go to die. So there is is this star, dead a long time ago and that light is just moving alone and moving alone, does it never get sort of tired, and then the light is off of us, just moving alone, just moving alone, like me just now switching off the light, moving alone. Yes it is late.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Re: How to kill light

      The thing about light is that at the speed of light no time passes so from a photon's perspective it is created, at every point on it's journey and absorbed or destroyed all simultaneously so it has no opportunity to consider how far or how long its indeterminable trek takes or to ponder on the futility of existence.

      This is why having a space ship move at the speed of light is a really bad idea - the moment you hit light speed you are effectively dead, either you instantly crash into something or you arrive at the heat death of the universe as with no time passing it's impossible to have any mechanism to slow the ship down or to alter the course.

  6. Celeste Reinard

    It dates from a time when the universe was still a wild and exciting place, with a different set of morals... when it was still smaller and it didn't matter when you behaved like that, being so big. I gather this star will have fallen apart by now, and formed the basis of an entire galaxy. Can anyone go take a look and shoot some pictures?

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Far Back In The Mists Of Ancient Time

      In the great and glorious days of the former Galactic Empire, life was wild, rich, and on the whole, tax-free.

      In those days, spirits were brave; the stakes were high; men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. And all dared to brave unknown terrors to do mighty deeds to boldly split infinitives that no man had split before.

      And thus was the Empire forged.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Far Back In The Mists Of Ancient Time

        And thus was the Empire forged.

        But eventually: "the system broke down, the Empire collapsed, and a long sullen silence settled over a billion worlds, disturbed only by the pen scratchings of scholars as they laboured into the night over smug little treaties on the value of a planned political economy."

        "In these enlightened days of course, no one believes a word of it."

    2. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      @ Celeste R:

      I have a suggestion or three of whom to send off to shoot closer pics.

    3. Camilla Smythe

      Can anyone go take a look and shoot some pictures?

      As long as you give it back I'll lend you my 9bn Light Year long selfie stick.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    S C I E N C E

    For the win.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    Hawking's Star?

    Relatively speaking...

    1. Scroticus Canis
      Happy

      Re: Hawking's Star? - Relatively speaking... ... Oh Absolutely!

      More a quantum fluctuation in the Grand Scheme of Things but what beautiful ripples he left in our understanding; they will continue to spread for a long time.

  9. handleoclast

    Our Small World

    Since the article is talking of a distant, large star, one of my favourite youtube videos seems rather appropriate. Just to give you a sense of scale.

  10. x 7

    I'm confused..............

    You say:

    "The light emitted from the star takes a whopping nine billion years to reach Earth. It means that observers can see what Icarus looked like when the universe was about 30 percent of its current age, about 4.1 billion years old."

    Surely if light travels at the speed of light, and that light is taking nine billion years to reach us, then we should be seeing what Icarus looked like nine billion years ago, not 4.1 billion.

    Or am I missing something?

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: I'm confused..............

      "can see what Icarus looked like when the universe was"

      13.1 billion years - 9 billion years - 4.1 billion years old.

      We see what the star looked like 9 billion years ago and also what the universe looked like 4.1 billion years old (the star would have a short lifespan, so I've no idea how old it was 9 billion years ago :P ).

    2. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: I'm confused..............

      Or am I missing something?

      I would guess that you are conflating the age of the universe and the time it took to get to us or the age of the star due to the way the statement was phrased. If it makes you feel better, you should note that the headline does exactly the same sort of thing in equating the time that it took the light to get to us with distance as the light did not travel in a straight line (gravitational lensing) and the universe is expanding, both of which play in the measurement of distance, especially at the scales involved.

  11. teebie

    The 4.1 billion is how old the universe when the light set off from icarus.

  12. x 7

    OK, thanks got it. I was misreading

  13. FrogsAndChips Bronze badge

    Gravitational lensing

    So all it took was one star - Sun-like, so not even a big one - in a *cluster of galaxies*, to increase the magnifying effect of that cluster from 600 times to 2000 times and making Icarus detectable?

    Just...wow!

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