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South Coast Scientist Plays Part In Discovery Of Farthest Star Ever Seen

Photo by NASA, ESA, and Patrick Kelly (University of Minnesota)
Images of the farthest individual star ever discovered

A South Coast scientist is among an international group of researchers that discovered the farthest star ever seen. 

Dr. Curtis McCully, an astrophysicist at Las Cumbres Observatory in Goleta, played a part in the discovery of an enormous blue star nicknamed Icarus that’s located nine billion lightyears away.

“I helped build the software system to analyze the data that came off the Hubble Space Telescope,” he said.

Scientists were using his software to study supernovas when they found something bright behind a galaxy cluster, which is a group of galaxies held together by dark matter.

“The gravity from a galaxy cluster will bend light. The gravity works just like a magnifying glass. Sometimes you get really lucky and something goes right in front of your magnifying glass so you can see something that you normally wouldn’t be able to see,” McCully said.

McCully said this cosmic phenomenon called gravitational lensing allowed the team to see this star that’s at least 100 times farther away than the farthest star ever studied.