Oldest Known Star Discovered, Estimated To 13.6 Billion Years Old
A group of Australian astronomers believe they have discovered the oldest known star in the universe and it could change the way we look at the universe's formation. The star is estimated to be around 13.6 billion years old and it's discovery has been hailed as a "one in 60 million chance" by Dr Stefan Keller, lead researcher at the Australian National University (ANU).
"It's giving us insight into our fundamental place in the universe," Keller told Reuters. "What we're seeing is the origin of where all the material around us that we need to survive came from. This is the first time we've unambiguously been able to say that we've got material from the first generation of stars. We're now going to be able to put that piece of the jigsaw puzzle in its right place."
The star, which has been given the catchy name of 'SMSS J 031300.36-670839.3', is actually located in the Milky Way some 6,000 light years away from Earth. The team at ANU used data from the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile to discover an unusually low level of Iron contained within the star, something that was key to determining its incredibly old age...
When the universe was first formed, elements other than helium and hydrogen were not in abundance. However, with time more and more elements such as Iron were formed and increased in their abundance in the universe. Iron content in stars has been a key factor in determining their age for some time now, with newer stars having a higher iron content than their predecessors.
Keller and his team deduced that the explosion that formed the star was a relatively low energy one, a fact which could explain a few holes in the Big Bang Theory. Current theory suggests that significant levels of Lithium were created during the big bang, but these levels of lithium are gradually reduced as the element is burnt up during the nuclear explosions that occur within stars. However, for years now, scientists have unable to explain a discrepancy in the actual levels of lithium detected in the universe, which are far higher than common big bang theory would suggest. But these low-energy explosions that Keller and his team believe created their ancient star may just account for these discrepancies.
But if you're not blown away by the potential righting of a wrong in the big bang theory, you can surely just bask in the humbling fact that humans have detected an object that is over 3 times older than the very planet we live on.