To get a hold of the transiency of this physical existence that we’re all experiencing at every step, you might as well take a good look at the stars. Regardless of how bright, powerful, dominant, glorious, and imposing they are, their existence will still come to an end someday. They can nurture entire planets with light and energy, but in the end, it doesn’t matter anymore.
But how old can a star actually be? Let’s take our Sun, for example, our host star. It was born 4.5 billion years ago, and it still has fuel for another 5 billion years. Logically speaking, a star cannot be older than the Universe itself – this totality of mass, time, and space that we all live in was born about 13.7 billion years ago along with the Big Bang. But scientists just found a star that is almost as old as the Universe itself.
SMSS J160540.18–144323.1 is its name
SMSS J160540.18–144323.1 is a red giant star found in our own cosmic backyard – in the Milky Way galaxy. It’s located at 35,000 light-years away from us, and the astronomers concluded how old the celestial object is by finding that it has the lowest iron levels of all the stars from the galaxy analyzed until now. The researchers believe that SMSS J160540.18–144323.1 belongs to the second generation of stars that formed after the Big Bang.
To be even more precise, astronomer Thomas Nordlander explains to us just how old the newfound star is:
This incredibly anaemic star, which likely formed just a few hundred million years after the Big Bang, has iron levels 1.5 million times lower than that of the Sun,
That’s like one drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.
And although for us several hundred million years sound like an eternity, for the Universe… well, it’s still a pretty long time, but less than what we call ‘eternity’ in the nonliteral sense.
The research was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.