Ancient white dwarf stars

November 3, 2011
Credit: NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)

( -- Pushing the limits of its powerful vision, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope uncovered the oldest burned-out stars in our Milky Way Galaxy in this image from 2002. These extremely old, dim "clockwork stars" provide a completely independent reading on the age of the universe without relying on measurements of the expansion of the universe.

The ancient white dwarf stars, as seen by Hubble, turn out to be 12 to 13 billion years old. Because earlier Hubble observations show that the first stars formed less than 1 billion years after the universe's birth in the big bang, finding the oldest stars puts astronomers well within arm's reach of calculating the absolute .

Though previous Hubble research sets the age of the universe at 13 to 14 billion years based on the rate of expansion of space, the universe's birthday is such a fundamental and profound value that astronomers have long sought other age-dating techniques to cross-check their conclusions.

The new age-dating observations were done using Hubble to hunt for elusive ancient stars hidden inside a globular star cluster located 5,600 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius.

Explore further: Milky Way is 13.000 Million Years Old

Related Stories

Milky Way is 13.000 Million Years Old

August 18, 2004

Observations by an international team of astronomers with the UVES spectrometer on ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory (Chile) have thrown new light on the earliest epoch of the Milky Way galaxy. The first-ever ...

Astronomers peer back to 'dawn of galaxies'

October 1, 2004

Detailed analysis of Hubble Space Telescope images has allowed astronomers to determine a major event in the evolution of the universe. The astronomers used the Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra Deep Field (UDF) to peer 95 ...

Hubble finds infant stars in neighbouring galaxy

January 13, 2005

Hubble astronomers have uncovered, for the first time, a population of infant stars in the Milky Way satellite galaxy, the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC, visible to the naked eye in the southern constellation Tucana), located ...

Recommended for you

What are white holes?

October 9, 2015

Black holes are created when stars die catastrophically in a supernova. So what in the universe is a white hole?

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

A mission to a metal world—The Psyche mission

October 9, 2015

In their drive to set exploration goals for the future, NASA's Discovery Program put out the call for proposals for their thirteenth Discovery mission in February 2014. After reviewing the 27 initial proposals, a panel of ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (5) Nov 03, 2011
Now all we need will be to find white dwarf stars out at a distance of 12 billion light years.....
5 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2011
Now all we need will be to find white dwarf stars out at a distance of 12 billion light years.....

A 11b Supernova wouldn't be enough for you, right?

Just out of curiosity:
What of your nonsense would be proofed with a 12b old white dwarf? Beside the fact you have no clue what you are taking about.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.