Far and Away
It seems not so long ago that the record for the most distant stellar explosion was reported. Well, it really was over 13 billion years ago, but we just saw it back on September 4, 2005. But barely 3 years later, that record is shattered, again thanks to observations by NASA's Swift gamma-ray burst hunter. A new burst was seen on September 13, 2008 by Swift, and its X-ray afterglow was observed by the Swift X-ray Telescope, as shown as the yellow-orange glow in the image above. The XRT image pinpointed the position of the burst for ground-based telescopes, and astronomers at the 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile started observing just one minute after the XRT observations. The redshift determined from the afterglow spectrum shows that this burst occurred more than 70 million years before the previous record holder. A mere blink of the Universal eye, but as measured in lifetimes of the star that produced the burst, 70 million years is probably close to about 50 generations of stars born and died.
Published: September 22, 2008
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:28:21 EDT