Astronomers Found A Star Almost As Old As The Universe Itself

The universe is a big, ancient place, and we've barely scratched the surface of what it contains. We've also found some real gems, like this one: a star that is almost as old as the universe itself.

Sitting 190 light-years from our solar system, HD 140283 was found almost 100 years ago and has been studied by astronomers ever since. Scientists knew the star was old due to it's composition of primarily helium and hydrogen, but it wasn't until now that they were able to narrow down its age and come up with any sort of number. It turns out that is roughly 13.9 billion years, actually older than the universe -- but there is a 700-million-year margin of error, which gives it plenty of room on the right side of the universe's birth.

Astronomers knew of another star that was almost this old, but the reading on this star in particular is far more likely to be accurate. It almost definitely is the oldest star we've ever seen. Ever. Who knows if they will find an even older one, but frankly we're starting to run out of space on the timeline. [Nature via Geek]

Picture: Paul Krugman/Shutterstock

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    Why has it lived so long? Don't stars die long before they reach that age?

      Helium and hydrogen, and lots of it?

      Last edited 13/01/13 5:34 am

      Smaller stars burn their fuel much, much more slowly than giant stars, and this star is a dwarf. Dwarf stars are capable of burning for longer than the current age of the universe before they use up all their fuel so it is certainly possible for this star to be this old.

      From what I've found this is classed as a population II star, so it does have some heavier elements in it and certainly can't be as old as the universe as it must have formed from a Population III star(the very first stars that formed).

    How is this possible when they have already found that the oldest stars are the furthest from us, see the below article.

    As this article (below) at the end suggests or the scientist it quotes suggests I should say, this star "could be detritus from giant stars' birth".

    Nothing against Gizmodo or the aticle author here, you are reporting on a rather cool discovery and statements and findings, I am criticizing the findings although I am in no way expert and will not try so say I am, just checking it out as I am intrigued and found these other articles after recalling things I read in the past.

    All this discovery and suggestions by scientists is going to do is bring the old we are the center of the universe crap back up which is just a funny ignorant concept to me.

      Hi Sykotika

      The article you linked to are the oldest supernovas which are exploding stars that they have spotted within ancient galaxies. The "age" they refer to in your linked article is actually the time it has taken the light from these and their galaxies to reach us which is 10-12 billion light years' ish -

      "the scientists discovered two supernovas, one that occurred about 10.4 billion years ago, the other about 12.1 billion years ago. Until now, the most distant supernova seen came from an explosion about 10.8 billion years ago.this does not mean that "

      The actual stars/supernovas may have actually vanished billions of years ago but the light from back then is only just reaching us. The wording of these things is never entirely clear so I can understand your confusion.

      Eric Limer's artcile is refering to a star that has been discovered whose light has only taken 190 years to reach us meaning the star is both relatively close to us and highly likely to still be around, and they have been able to ascertain it's age through various measurements of it's composition (I dont know how they do that but they seem pretty confident) - It is therefore the oldest known star, still burning today, that has been discovered.

      Hope that helps.

      Im not sure how you feel this is raising the whole "centre of the universe crap" - nothing in either article, nothing in either article would suggest this.

      @sykotika: There is a big difference between finding old stars and finding stars far away from us, even though there's good reason for them being reported in much the same way.

      Stars we might see 13 billion light years away from us almost certainly ceased to exist a long time ago. It's just that we are looking at light which originated there all that time ago. So yes, they were very early stars which we now see. We are just seeing them as they were then, when they were young. If we could magically teleport there now, then we would see something vastly different.

      On the other hand, finding a 13 billion year old star near to us is a very different thing. It was there all that time ago, but we can say one thing for it which we can't say about the ones which are far away: we know it is still there in modern times (at least until 190 years ago in this case).

      So far away stars, like nearby old stars, were there in the early universe. The difference is between early and old.

      Last edited 13/01/13 8:24 am

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