News Update: Head of Russia's Antarctic Genetics Lab Denies "Unclassified Microbial Life Discovered in Lake Vostok"
The Human Population Explosion 40,000 Years Ago --New Theories on Why (Today's Most Popular)

"The Methuselah Star" --New Hubble Data Says It's Close, But Not Older than the Universe



           2-1_600 (1)


"We have found that this is the oldest known star with a well-determined age," said Howard Bond of Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md. The star could be as old as 14.5 billion years (plus or minus 0.8 billion years), which at first glance would make it older than the universe's calculated age of about 13.8 billion years, an obvious dilemma. But earlier estimates from observations dating back to 2000 placed the star as old as 16 billion years, an age range that presented a potential dilemma for cosmologists. This Methuselah star has seen many changes over its long life. It was likely born in a primeval dwarf galaxy. The dwarf galaxy eventually was gravitationally shredded and sucked in by the emerging Milky Way over 12 billion years ago. The star retains its elongated orbit from that cannibalism event. Therefore, it's just passing through the solar neighborhood at a rocket-like speed of 800,000 miles per hour.

"Maybe the cosmology is wrong, stellar physics is wrong, or the star's distance is wrong," Bond said. "So we set out to refine the distance." The new Hubble age estimates reduce the range of measurement uncertainty, so that the star's age overlaps with the universe's age—as independently determined by the rate of expansion of space, an analysis of the microwave background from the big bang, and measurements of radioactive decay.

This "Methuselah star," cataloged as H D 140283, has been known about for more than a century because of its fast motion across the sky. The high rate of motion is evidence that the star is simply a visitor to our stellar neighborhood. Its orbit carries it down through the plane of our galaxy from the ancient halo of stars that encircle the Milky Way, and will eventually slingshot back to the galactic halo.

Because the aging star is relatively nearby, familiar stars and constellations as seen from Earth are in the sky, but in different locations. At upper left is the constellation Orion, which looks distorted from our new perspective in space. Just to the upper left of the foreground star is the Pleiades cluster. To the lower left of the cluster, our Sun has dimmed to an apparent magnitude of +7, placing it below naked-eye visibility.




This conclusion was bolstered by the 1950s astronomers who were able to measure a deficiency of heavier elements in the star as compared to other stars in our galactic neighborhood. The halo stars are among the first inhabitants of our galaxy and collectively represent an older population from the stars, like our sun, that formed later in the disk. This means that the star formed at a very early time before the universe was largely "polluted" with heavier elements forged inside stars through nucleosynthesis. (The Methuselah star has an anemic 1/250th as much of the heavy element content of our sun and other stars in our solar neighborhood.)

The star, which is at the very first stages of expanding into a red giant, can be seen with binoculars as a 7th-magnitude object in the constellation Libra. Hubble's observational prowess was used to refine the distance to the star, which comes out to be 190.1 light-years. Bond and his team performed this measurement by using trigonometric parallax, where an apparent shift in the position of a star is caused by a change in the observer's position.

The parallax of nearby stars can be measured by observing them from opposite points in Earth's orbit around the sun. The star's true distance from Earth can then be precisely calculated through straightforward triangulation. Once the true distance is known, an exact value for the star's intrinsic brightness can be calculated. Knowing a star's intrinsic brightness is a fundamental prerequisite to estimating its age. Before the Hubble observation, the European Space Agency's Hipparcos satellite made a precise measurement of the star's parallax, but with an age measurement uncertainty of 2 billion years. One of Hubble's three Fine Guidance Sensors measured the position of the Methuselah star.

It turns out that the star's parallax came out to be virtually identical to the Hipparcos measurements. But Hubble's precision is five times better that than of Hipparcos. Bond's team managed to shrink the uncertainty so that the age estimate was five times more precise. With a better handle on the star's brightness Bond's team refined the star's age by applying contemporary theories about the star's burn rate, chemical abundances, and internal structure. New ideas are that leftover helium diffuses deeper into the core and so the star has less hydrogen to burn via nuclear fusion. This means it uses fuel faster and that correspondingly lowers the age.

Also, the star has a higher than predicted oxygen-to-iron ratio, and this too lowers the age. Bond thinks that further oxygen measurement could reduce the star's age even more, because the star would have formed at a slightly later time when the universe was richer in oxygen abundance. Lowering the upper age limit would make the star unequivocally younger than the universe.

"Put all of those ingredients together and you get an age of 14.5 billion years, with a residual uncertainty that makes the star's age compatible with the age of the universe," said Bond. "This is the best star in the sky to do precision age calculations by virtue of its closeness and brightness."

It takes just 1,500 years to traverse a piece of sky with the angular width of the full Moon. The star's proper motion angular rate is so fast (0.13 milliarcseconds an hour) that Hubble could actually photograph its movement in literally a few hours.

Journal reference: Astrophysical Journal Letters

The Daily Galaxy via NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


A star this old is no more, it blew up long ago and humans will be gone when light from that event reaches the solar system.

actually Knize10 you forget that this star is 190 light years away which means the light we see from it is only that old and it could very well still be alive. You were confusing age with time and thought it was a very far away star that took billions of years to reach Earth.

This seems to be a classic case of using the manipulating the results to match the theory. If the star is even 13.7 billion years old isn't it extraordinarilyy close to us at 190 light years and shouldn't it have burnt itself out by now?

You are linked to the wrong star article in Wikipedia.

Hosey G got it exactly right. This is a classic case of the "data" not fitting theory. This star is older than most theories of the Big Bang can tolerate. Sounds typical of academics who'd rather preserve their reputations than look at the facts and go from there.

This "Methuselah star," cataloged as H D 140283, is another additional clue to us to urgently evaluate the "Big Bang model." The revising might be just a little correction. But the result of revision could really be prominence.

Given the uncertainties in estimating the ages of stars we would expect a fair amount of error around the correct ages of stars. If the first stars started up perhaps 200 million years after the birth of the universe, that's only about 1% of the current age of the universe. It wouldn't take much of an error distribution to have some age estimates show some stars, at one end of the bell curve, older than the universe. Absence of such outliers might itself be evidence of fudging the data!

Dr. Paul Cook's comment shows really a complete failure to understand what science is: there are always errors, noise, & outliers. If a discrepancy persists, then it might be cause for further investigation. But a discordance at this early stage is just not significant.

I have got to agree with Dr. Paul Cook, and I believe he does "understand what science is:" (sorry John Ashmead!). There is a growing and irrefutable body of evidence that the "mainstream" theories are wrong. The Big Bang is just one of the conclusions drawn from unproven fundamental assumptions such as the laws of gravity, others being the need for dark matter, dark energy, etc. The accepted law of gravity is contradicted by observed "gravitational lensing" where the required dark matter distribution does not fit calculations, by the galactic rotational anomaly where stellar velocities are not in keeping with expected values, and so on. There are several straightforward experiments which would disprove current fundamental assumptions, but they are consistently ignored by the academic establishment.

My question is if the Methuselah star is in the first stages of a red giant does that mean it definitively burnt itself out by now ? How long does a star of this size last after it has entered the first stage of becoming a red giant?

The article said that the star was traveling at an excessive speed of 800 000 m/h and this star has been observed for the last 100 years.the article also said that the star is 192 light-years away, meaning that if you had a ship traveling the speed of light,it would take 192 years to get there.this is very close because the star is just passing through our neighborhood and will be out of our inner solar system and back into the outskirts of the Orion cloud in 1500 light-years .. very interesting. there are many interesting things in this universe.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)