SCIENCE

Oldest Star In The Universe? HD 140283, About 13.2 Billion Years Old, Is Most Ancient Yet Observed

01/15/2013 08:46 am ET | Updated Jan 18, 2013

Which is our universe's oldest star? Astronomers now say the honor may go to HD 140283, a gassy giant that's celebrated an estimated 13.2 billion birthdays, give or take a couple hundred million, according to the January 2013 issue of Nature.

"We believe this star is the oldest known in the Universe with a well determined age,” Howard Bond, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, told Nature. The finding was announced January 10, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, Calif.

HD 140283 is fairly close to Earth, located at the (astronomical) spitting distance of just under 190 light years from our solar system.

This newest "Methuselah" star steals the title from HE 1523, another 13.2 billion-year-old star discovered in 2007. Scientists say they believe HD 140283 is older because its luminosity indicates a nearly depleted hydrogen core in addition to small amounts of some heavier elements. As Russia Today notes, trace amounts of these elements give an important clue as to when the star formed relative to the Big Bang, thereby helping estimate its age.

Given that the Big Bang occurred an estimated 13.7 billion years ago, that means HD 140283 was forming about 500 million years after the birth of the universe.

flickr photo via Image Editor

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