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Mysterious star is 'older than the universe'

Posted on Saturday, 10 August, 2019 | Comment icon 20 comments

How can a star be older than the universe itself ? Image Credit: NASA/ESA/ESO
Known as the 'Methuselah star' due to its extreme age, this nearby stellar body may predate the Big Bang.
Situated a mere 200 light years away from the Earth, the star known formally as HD 140283 has long represented something of a problem for astronomers.

Back in 2013, a study employing the Fine Guidance Sensors of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope determined that the star is roughly 14.5 billion years old - a figure that would seem to be impossible given that the age of the universe itself is thought to be approximately 13.799 billion years.

"It's a riddle of cosmic proportions: how can the universe contain stars older than itself ?" physicist Robert Matthews wrote in The National. "That's the conundrum now facing astronomers trying to establish the age of the universe - and its resolution could spark a scientific revolution."
It is certainly possible that either one or both of these calculated ages is wrong, however it is also possible that there is something fundamental about the universe that scientists are missing.

"Astronomers now know [that HD 140283] contains very little iron - which means it must have been formed before this element became common in the universe," wrote Dr Matthews.

"And that implies HD 140283 must be almost as old as the universe itself."

The search for answers continues.

Source: | Comments (20)

Tags: Methuselah Star

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #11 Posted by Ell on 10 August, 2019, 21:41
It has only 0.780 or 0.805 solar mass, so it is a slow burner. It also is a high-velocity star, so my guess is that it is a runaway star. I suspect that this star used to be a Jupiter mass planet. When its parent star went supernova, it dumped some of its gas layers upon the planet and the shockwave ignited nuclear fusion, and gave it a high impulse. Ever since the heavy elements in its gas layers have been dropping down to its center. That is why it has scarcely any heavy elements in its outer layer. Conclusion: It is a very young star and it formed and ignited in an exceptional way.
Comment icon #12 Posted by mesuma on 10 August, 2019, 23:16
How can this not just be an example of science making a mistake? Either way someone's calculations are wrong. Science is not infallible. It's slightly amusing reading some of the comments on here involving some pretty wild theories instead of just saying "we got it wrong".     I'm expecting a few rage comments from this but............
Comment icon #13 Posted by qxcontinuum on 11 August, 2019, 2:13
This shows how wrong science can get since many of its observations are based on suppositions and observational guessestimate.
Comment icon #14 Posted by SmartAZ on 11 August, 2019, 23:05
Or maybe all their estimates are just baloney. For a very long time one group of astronomers could prove that the universe was not older than 13 billion years, while another group could prove that it was not younger than 19 billion years, and neither group could find anything wrong with the other group's proof. Of course both proofs were based on the assumption that the universe had a definite starting point, and that astronomers had enough data and reliable enough methods to calculate that point. Bottom line: scientists would rather be wrong than uncertain.
Comment icon #15 Posted by Piney on 12 August, 2019, 0:51
Have you proven Saturn was up Earth's butt yet and caused the Biblical flood? 
Comment icon #16 Posted by Tom1200 on 16 August, 2019, 10:39
Now, now, Piney. No one ever thought that was Saturn. It was actually Venus. It had a identity crisis 3000 years ago, started drinking heavily and went off-orbit for a while. Caused all sorts of nonsense on Earth including nuking Atlantis and shooting the dinosaurs.
Comment icon #17 Posted by bison on 16 August, 2019, 16:16
Like many mainstream media, it appears that can sometimes be rather careless about its facts. Actually, the age of the universe is known to a precision of about 12 million years. It is the age of the Methuselah star itself that has an uncertainty factor of 800 million years. This still, of course, allows the star to have had its origin within the age of the universe as it is currently known-- ~13.8 billion years. 
Comment icon #18 Posted by SmartAZ on 19 August, 2019, 5:01
I don't know what you are talking about. ETA: I think I know what you are talking about, but I don't need to prove anything to someone who muddles the subject so badly.
Comment icon #19 Posted by FlyingAngel on 7 September, 2019, 10:38
Yeah, it could be wrong. Having theories isn't too bad either. Imaginations lead us to another approach of interpreting life.
Comment icon #20 Posted by Manwon Lender on 7 September, 2019, 11:49
The link that started this thread was vastly short on data, it also made conclusions that were not based upon fact. While the Universe is estimated to be 13.5 Billion years old that number is plus or minus 800,000 years according to NASA which could make the Universe 14.3 billion years old.  The Methuselah Star is 14.5 Billion years old plus or minus 0.8 Billion years by NASAs calculations. Which places the age of Universe and the age of the Methuselah Star within the estimated time frame of the Big Bang. So this Star while not older than the Universe may actually be one of the first Stars cre... [More]

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