Sunday, November 01, 2009

NASA Swift satellite sees furthest ever cosmic explosion

NASA reported on 23 April 2009 that their Swift satellite and337652main_IR_afterglow_annotated_226[1] a international team of astronomers detected a ten-second gamma-ray burst from a star that died when the universe was only 630 million years old, or less than five percent of its present age.

The event, dubbed GRB 090423, is the most distant cosmic explosion ever seen. 

In line with other posts in this blog about basic questions, this event sheds further light (no pun intended) on the age and size of the universe.

To quote: "Swift was designed to catch these very distant bursts," said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The incredible distance to this burst exceeded our greatest expectations -- it was a true blast from the past."

"The burst most likely arose from the explosion of a massive star," said Derek Fox at Pennsylvania State University. "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."

Read the NASA article to view a short animation of a gamma-ray burst and find out more.