Washington: American astronomers have captured the most distant normal star ever observed, some 9 billion light years from Earth, thanks to a rare cosmic alignment.
The study, published on Monday online in the journal Nature Astronomy, revealed the discovery of a star called Icarus, magnified by gravitational lensing by over 2,000 times, reported Xinhua.
Astronomers routinely study galaxies much farther away, visible because they glow with the brightness of billions of stars. They also managed to study supernova, often brighter than the galaxy in which it sits.
However, for a distance of about 100 million light years, the stars in these galaxies are impossible to make out individually.
But a phenomenon called gravitational lensing, the bending of light by massive galaxy clusters in the line of sight, can magnify the distant universe and make dim, far away objects visible.
The single star was discovered in NASA Hubble Space Telescope images taken in late April of 2016 and as recently as April 2017.
"You can see individual galaxies out there, but this star is at least 100 times farther away than the next individual star we can study, except for supernova explosions," said Patrick Kelly at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, the paper's first author.
These observations can provide a rare look at how stars evolve, especially the most luminous ones.
"For the first time ever we're seeing an individual normal star - not a supernova, not a gamma ray burst, but a single stable star - at a distance of nine billion light years," said Alex Filippenko, a professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley and one of many co-authors of the report.
The B-type star Icarus is much larger, more massive, hotter and possibly hundreds of thousands of times intrinsically brighter than our Sun.
According to the researchers, an extended lens, like a galaxy cluster, can only magnify a background object up to 50 times, but smaller objects can magnify much more.
A single star in a foreground lens, if precisely aligned with a background star, can magnify the background star thousands of times.
In this case, a star about the size of our sun briefly passed directly through the line of sight between the distant star Icarus and Hubble, boosting its brightness significantly.
Also, if the alignment was perfect, that single star within the cluster turned the light from the distant star into an "Einstein ring": a halo of light created when light from the distant star bends around all sides of the lensing star.
The ring is too small to discern from this distance, but the effect made the star easily visible by magnifying its apparent brightness.
The astronomers predict that Icarus will be magnified many times over the next decade as cluster stars move around, perhaps increasing its brightness as much as 10,000 times.
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New Delhi: India's 100 top billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by Rs 12,97,822 crore since March last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country and this amount is enough to give 13.8 crore poorest Indians a cheque for Rs 94,045 each.
The latest India supplement of the Oxfam report 'The Inequality Virus' said it would take an unskilled worker 10,000 years to make what businessman Mukesh Ambani made in an hour during the pandemic and three years to make what he made in a second.
The report has been released on the opening day of the World Economic Forum's 'Davos Dialogues'.
Calling the coronavirus pandemic the world's worst public health crisis in a hundred years, the report said it triggered an economic crisis comparable in scale only with the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"India's 100 billionaires have seen their fortunes increase by Rs 12,97,822 crores since March last year which is enough to give every one of the 138 million poorest Indians a cheque for Rs 94,045 each," the report said.
The new global survey of 295 economists from 79 countries, commissioned by Oxfam, reveals that 87 per cent of respondents, including Jeffrey Sachs, Jayati Ghosh and Gabriel Zucman, expect an "increase" or a "major increase" in income inequality in their country as a result of the pandemic.
"India has the world's fourth lowest health budget in terms of its share of government expenditure," it said. "If India's top 11 billionaires are taxed at just 1 per cent on the increase in their wealth during the pandemic, it will be enough to increase the allocation of Jan Aushadi Scheme by 140 times, which provides affordable medicines to the poor and marginalized."
India introduced one of the earliest and most stringent lockdowns in the face of the pandemic and its enforcement brought the economy to a standstill, triggering unemployment, hunger, distress migration and untold hardship in its wake, the report said.
"The rich were able to escape the pandemic's worst impact; and while the white-collar workers isolated themselves and worked from home, a majority of the not-so-fortunate Indians lost their livelihood," it said.
The report noted that billionaires like Gautam Adani, Shiv Nadar, Cyrus Poonawalla, Uday Kotak, Azim Premji, Sunil Mittal, Radhakrishan Damani, Kumar Manglam Birla and Laxmi Mittal working in sectors like coal, oil, telecom, medicines, pharmaceutical, education and retail increased their wealth exponentially since March 2020 when India announced world's biggest COVID-19 lockdown and economy came to standstill.
On the other hand, data has shown that 170,000 people lost their jobs every hour in the month of April 2020, the report said. Findings of the report showed that rich got richer during the pandemic.
"Data shows what Ambani earned during the pandemic would keep the 40 crore informal workers that are at risk of falling into poverty due to COVID-19 above the poverty line for at least 5 months," the report said.
The wealth of Indian billionaires increased by 35 per cent during the lockdown and by 90 per cent since 2009 to USD 422.9 billion, ranking India sixth in the world after the US, China, Germany, Russia and France, it said.
In fact, the report said the increase in wealth of the top 11 billionaires of India during the pandemic could sustain the rural job scheme MGNREGA for 10 years or the Health Ministry for 10 years.
Noting that the informal sector had been the worst hit, the report said out of a total 12.2 crore people who lost their jobs, 75 per cent, which accounts for 9.2 crore jobs, were lost in the informal sector.
"The mass exodus on foot triggered by the sudden lockdown and the inhuman beating, disinfection and quarantine conditions the informal workers were subjected to turned a health emergency into a humanitarian crisis," it said.
"Over 300 informal workers died due to the lockdown, with reasons ranging from starvation, suicides, exhaustion, road and rail accidents, police brutality and denial of timely medical care. The National Human Rights Commission recorded over 2,582 cases of human rights violation as early as in the month of April 2020," the report added.
It noted that the long disruption of schooling risked doubling the rate of out of school, especially among the poor.
"Only 4 per cent of rural households had a computer and less than 15 per cent rural households had an internet connection," it said.
On health inequalities, the report said only 6 per cent of the poorest 20 per cent has access to non-shared sources of improved sanitation, compared to 93.4 per cent of the top 20 per cent. It added that 59.6 per cent of India's population lives in a room or less.
The report said 1.7 crore women lost their job in April 2020 and unemployment for women rose by 15 per cent from a pre-lockdown level.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said if not addressed immediately, the crisis could worsen.
"Extreme inequality is not inevitable, but a policy choice. The fight against inequality must be at the heart of economic rescue and recovery efforts now," Behar said.
"Newer and creative ways of catering to the needs of the masses is possible if governments are committed to the needs of its people. It is time for the government of India to take specific and concrete actions that will build a better future, more equal and just a future for everyone," he said.