Chris McKitterick (mckitterick) wrote,
Chris McKitterick
mckitterick

Astro-Image of the Day: ancient gamma-ray burst

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
Tags: astronomy
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