Mar 9, 2006

Most Distant Gamma Ray Burst Reported


(London) A massive star that exploded soon after the Big Bang was detected by astronomers in an unprecedented sighting that offers information about the early universe.

Scientists estimate that the event took place 12.8 billion years ago, which was a mere 900 million years after the beginning of the universe.

The event was observed by astronomers in the US, Japan and Italy last September using NASA's Swift satellite. An animated view of the explosion can be viewed at

The explosion happened after the star collapsed into a black hole, releasing more energy than exists in all the stars and planets combined. The result was a gamma-ray burst, and the energy wave has been labeled GRB 050904.

Gamma rays travel at tremendous speeds but are largely absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere. A gamma ray burst is the most distant and powerful type of explosion known to astronomers, and it can last anywhere from a few milliseconds to several minutes in length.

This means that not only did stars form in this short period of time after the Big Bang, but also that enough time had elapsed for them to evolve and collapse into black holes," said Giancarlo Cusumano, of the National Institute for Astrophysics in Palermo, Italy.

"Light from the oldest and farthest stellar explosion yet seen was emitted when the universe was a mere infant," said Enrico Ramirez-Ruiz, of the Institute of Advanced Study at Princeton University. "It provides a close-up view of how and when stars formed. For the first time, the most distant objects that can be identified are not just galaxies, but also individual stars."

The Swift satellite was launched in November 2004 and became fully operational in January 2005. The spacecraft carries three observation devices: the Burst Alert Telescope, the X-ray Telescope, and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope.


Anonymous said...

The creationist Mafia is going to hunt you down, Mike.

-- Petrograde

historymike said...

Heh heh!

Stephanie said...

Is this considered "proof" of the Big Bang, or just an addition to the theory?

historymike said...

If you accept the theory (or at whichever of the various refinements of the theory) then this is corroborating evidence.

I have a sort of hybrid understanding in that I accept the scientific principles, but leave open the possibility that the Big Bang was the Judeo-Christian creation moment.

What bigger "Bang" could there be than God creating the universe?

Hooda Thunkit said...

This happened when the universe was ~ 900 Million years old, which is supposed to be 12.8 bilion years old now, and the speed of light...

If this is so, the Big Bang must have put matter everywhere immediately and moving further outward since then.

I'm having trouble with this, as I always thought that The Big Bang "happened" at some finite point and moved outward from there.


Stephanie said...


I certainly agree with this:

"What bigger "Bang" could there be than God creating the universe?"

I've just always heard that the Big Bang was one of several scientific theories and that we really didn't have enough evidence to exclude any of them.


I couldn't explain the scientific theory behind the Big Bang...but the time aspect of it isn't the same as what we consider time...within my limited understanding. Basically, because it's so far away and the universe initially expanded so fast, we (with properly advanced instruments) could actually see the Big Bang, because the matter traveled faster than the light.

Does that make sense to me? No, but... I'm not a scientist.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Me neither.


Dariush said...

Big Bang vs. Creationism aside, Gamma Ray Bursts occur periodically and are just about one of the most violent and destructive things that we know of in the universe.

Here's what Exit Mundi has to say about them.