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NASA's Swift satellite has discovered the most distant - thus, oldest - gamma-ray burst ever. The star that exploded to create the burst died when the universe was a baby, just 630 million years old (it's about 12 billion years old now). That's before our galaxy even existed in any recognizable way, long before our Sun was born. So not only did this massive explosion take place far before most of the universe had even found its final form, but the star that exploded had already lived out its full life. Imagine how huge it must have been to have died so young!

Here's an image of gamma-ray burst GRB 090423:

Click the image to see the story.

On April 23, Swift detected a 10-second-long gamma-ray burst of modest brightness. It quickly pivoted to bring its ultraviolet/optical and X-ray telescopes to observe the burst location. Swift saw a fading X-ray afterglow but none in visible light. Here's an awesome artist's representation video.

(Hey, anyone know why I can't the video to show? I'm trying to use the embed tag for an .mpg. What should I be using? Oh, and LJ is great: It deletes everything in your post starting from the embed tag. Yay.)

"It's an incredible find," Chincarini said. "What makes it even better is that a telescope named for Galileo made this measurement during the year in which we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first astronomical use of the telescope."

And:

"We're seeing the demise of a star - and probably the birth of a black hole - in one of the universe's earliest stellar generations."

Best,
Chris

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Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
clevermanka
Apr. 30th, 2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
Imagine how huge it must have been to have died so young!

Because somebody is going to reference this. Or should. Might as well be me!

pointoforigin
May. 1st, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
"Highlander" squeeee!! No, wait . . . that's not what I meant to say. What I meant to say is, black holes are terrifying and yet fascinating . . . not unlike Kurgans, although I usually can't wait for someone to decapitate the Kurgan and take his quickening, whereas I'm not even sure how that would work for a black hole. The Sparrowhawk was reading me a very cool article today about unattached black holes wandering around intergalactic space at random . . . after consuming their entire galaxy, presumably. Now that's scary. And the only way to detect them would be to search for small, fast-moving clusters of old stars, dragged along in their path. Makes the hair on my neck stand up! That would make a really cool story, you know. A ship sent out to hunt down a very old, rogue black hole!

http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2009/429/2
mckitterick
May. 1st, 2009 06:27 am (UTC)
Hm!

Tonight in class, I had an idea for a cool story, too. Seems there's ideas floating around like galactic chaff right now!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )