Agence France-Presse

Hubble Space Telescope snaps mesmerizing photo of most distant star ever observed

The Hubble space telescope has peered back to the dawn of cosmic time and detected light from a star that existed within the first billion years after the Big Bang -- a new record, astronomers said Wednesday.

The newly discovered star, called "Earendel," is so far away its light has taken 12.9 billion years to reach Earth, when the universe was seven percent its current age.

"We almost didn't believe it at first, it was so much farther than the previous most distant," said astronomer Brian Welch of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, lead author of a paper in Nature describing the discovery.

The previous record-holder was detected in 2018 when the universe was four billion years old.

Because the universe is expanding, by the time light from distant stars reaches us it is stretched to longer, redder wavelengths, a phenomenon called "redshift."

Earendel's light came from an era called redshift 6.2.

"Normally at these distances, entire galaxies look like small smudges, the light from millions of stars blending together," said Welch in a statement.

The galaxy hosting the star has been naturally magnified and distorted by an effect called gravitational lensing.

This is when a massive object in between the observer and the thing they're looking at bends the fabric of space-time, so that rays of light coming from the target object that were diverging are bent back towards the observer.

The cosmic magnifying glass in this case is a huge galaxy cluster known as WHL0137-08, which, thanks to a rare alignment, provides maximum magnification and brightening.

"The galaxy hosting this star has been magnified and distorted by gravitational lensing into a long crescent that we named the Sunrise Arc," said Welch.

After he studied the galaxy in detail, Welch found that one feature is an extremely magnified star that he called Earendel, which means "morning star" in Old English.

Earendel existed so long ago that it may not have had the same raw materials as the stars that exist today, added Welch.

"It's like we've been reading a really interesting book, but we started with the second chapter, and now we will have a chance to see how it all got started," he said.

Astronomers intend to gaze at the star using the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's successor, which is highly sensitive to infrared light from the oldest celestial bodies, in order to confirm Earendel's age, mass and radius.

It has been hypothesized that primordial stars were made solely from the elements forged after the Big Bang: hydrogen, helium and trace amounts of lithium, and should be more massive than stars that exist today.

It remains to be seen if Earendel belongs to these so-called "Population III" stars, but while the probability is small, it is enticing, said Welch.

Webb, which should go online this summer, is expected to break Hubble's records and peer even further back in time.

Journalist Marina Ovsyannikova says Russia 'must stop this madness' in Ukraine

In an extraordinary show of dissent, journalist Marina Ovsyannikova held up an anti-war poster on Russian state television on Monday before being arrested, fined and later released by authorities. In an interview with FRANCE 24, she spoke out against Russian state "propaganda" and called for an end to the "fratricidal" war in Ukraine.

Speaking to FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman from Moscow, Marina Ovsyannikova began by thanking French President Emmanuel Macron for offering her political asylum in France, but said that as a "patriot" she preferred to stay in her home country of Russia.

The Russian journalist had to pay a fine of 30,000 roubles (around €250) for a video she published explaining her actions and calling on Russians to demonstrate against the war in Ukraine. Ovsyannikova pointed out that the fine was "not the end of the story", since she still faced up to 15 years in prison for her on-air protest.

She added that her "dissatisfaction" with Russian state "propaganda" had increased over the years, notably after the poisoning and jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but that the "point of no-return" was Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The journalist also explained that she has taken part in several anti-war demonstrations in Moscow but that "these protest actions were not effective because they are so constrained, so controlled." Her on-air show of dissent was therefore "a strong message" to show that some Russians are against the war in Ukraine.

Ovsyannikova is quitting her job at Russian state television. She said that other anti-war journalists were also resigning, but that others were unable to do so because of the economic situation.

The journalist, who has two young children, said that her son thought that she had "destroyed" their "family life" with her protest. "But I explained to him that in life, you have to react and make decisions that are often complicated," she told FRANCE 24.

"Above all, we must bring an end to this fratricidal war. We must stop this madness before we reach something like nuclear war. So I think when my son is a bit older he will be able to understand my gesture," she concluded.

Haitian President Jovenel Moise assassinated overnight in private residence: interim PM’s office

A group of unidentified individuals attacked the private residence of Haitian PresidentJovenel Moise overnight and shot him dead, Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph said in a statement released Wednesday.

At around 1am on Wednesday July 7, a group of unidentified people, including some speaking Spanish, attacked the private residence of the president, mortally wounding the head of state. The First Lady suffered bullet injuries, said a statement released by Interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph's office.

Joseph said he was now in charge of the country.

Condemning the "inhumane and barbaric act", Joseph called for calm, saying the police and the country's armed forces had taken control of the security situation.

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