Methuselah: The Oldest Star in the Universe

 Scientists tried to determine the lifetime of what they believed to be the universe's oldest star in 2000. They obtained data from the Hipparcos satellite of the European Space Agency (ESA) and determined that HD140283, or Methuselah as it is more commonly known, was a startling 16 billion years old. 


Such a number seemed somewhat confusing. How can a star be older than the cosmos when the age of the universe, as calculated by studies of the cosmic microwave background, is 13.8 billion years old? 


According to astronomer Howard Bond of Pennsylvania State University, "It was a substantial difference." Bond and his colleagues gather to find out the truth and check the figure's correctness in light of this. Their findings were equally astonishing. 

The oldest star in the universe is HD140283 — or Methuselah as it's commonly known. This Digitized Sky Survey image shows Methuselah star, located 190.1 light-years away. Astronomers refined the star's age to about 14.3 billion years (which is older than the universe), plus or minus 800 million years. Image released March 7, 2013. (Image credit: Digitized Sky Survey (DSS), STScI/AURA, Palomar/Caltech, and UKSTU/AAO)

Methuselah, named after a biblical patriarch who declare himself to be lived to the age of 969 and hence was the longest-living person in the Bible, has been the subject of astronomical observation for more than a century. The mysterious star is about 190 light-years from Earth in the constellation Libra, and it hastens through the sky at an incredible 800,000 mph (1.3 million kilometers per hour). 

It was clearly expressed that the star was old. The metal-poor subgiant is predominantly consisting of hydrogen and helium and contains very little iron. Such composition meant the star must have come into being when helium and hydrogen dominated the universe and before iron became ordinary (the heavier elements only appeared when massive stars created them in their cores)  

But could Methuselah in reality, be more than two billion years older than its environment? Surely that is just not possible. Either the star was older than the universe or the universe was not as "young" as scientists concept it to be. Or maybe the dating was simply all incorrect. What was it to be? 

In addition, in May 2021, a different team of astronomers improving the best hypotheses for the age and mass of Methuselah, and after forming the evolution of stars, they determined that it is 12 billion years old. Even though the sun, at 4.6 billion years old, is still an infant compared to HD 140283, this nevertheless places the star's age well within the universe's age range. Or does it? 

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