Swift Detection of naked-eye GRB
Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler, et al.

Home of the Whopper?

On the day Arthur Clarke died, the deaths of four other stars reckoned by skywatchers made history. The image above shows the second of these, the stellar explosion prosaically called GRB 080319B, detected by the Swift gamma-ray burst hunter. This event, associated with the explosion of a massive star in a galaxy far far away, occurred seven and one-half billion years ago, when the Universe was less than half its current age. Things like this happen all the time - but this event was so powerful, its afterglow was visible to the naked human eye. Astronomers, not an excitable lot normally, rightly call this event a whopper. This was the most distant object ever directly visible. An astounding event. In the words of Dr. Heywood Floyd, "Its origin and purpose still a total mystery." But seeing is believing. Astronomers are putting themselves to the fullest possible use to solve the mystery behind this titanic event - which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:28:21 EDT

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