TECH

Astronomers Find The 'Oldest Star In The Universe'

10/02/2014 11:27 GMT | Updated 10/02/2014 11:59 GMT

Astronomers say they have found the oldest star in the universe.

A team from the Australian National University said their star was formed 13.6 billion years ago - just 200 million or so years after the moment the universe was created.

The star (named 'SMSS J031300.36-670839.3.') is far older than the previous record holders - two stars found in 2007 and 2013 which are both about 13.2 billion years old.

star

Above: this image captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, reveals a star in the process of forming within the Chameleon cloud - a separate, but related discovery.

The discovery has been claimed by Stefan Keller at the Australian National University in Canberra, using the SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring observatory near Coonabarabran.

Keller said that the star is actually located in our own galaxy, about 6,000 light years from Earth.

At first that sounds counter-intuitive, but Keller says there are tell-tale signs in the star's chemistry that speak to its ancient origins.

"Just by imaging the colours of stars, we can tell which stars are prime candidates of being the oldest,” Keller told the Guardian.

"We can tell how much iron it has – the more iron, the younger the star. In the case of the star we have announced, the amount of iron present is a factor of at least 60 times less than any other star."

Iron content enriches in stars after every 'rebirth' - which is why having so little iron tells astronomers that it is very old indeed.

It is thought the star would have formed after an even more ancient star with 60 times the mass of our sun collapsed into a supernova.

The find is reported in the journal Nature, and has since been confirmed by other telescopes.

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