Death of Massive Star Creates Brightest Burst Ever Seen

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British Astronomers discover the most distant naked-eye object ever seen.

Gamma-Ray Bursts, the most powerful explosive events in the Universe generally occur in far-off galaxies. They are rarely seen from earth, because they are very faint, due to the massive distances involved.

On March 19th 2008, the Swift satellite found a Gamma-Ray burst so bright that it could have been seen without binoculars or a telescope. The truly amazing thing about this is that it was so far away – seven thousand times further away than the Andromeda galaxy.

The burst was discovered by the Swift satellite by Gamma-Ray Bursts hunters. Swift typically finds two each week. This was no ordinary week, though, and five bursts were recorded within a 24 hour period. On that day, the second burst recorded set a new recordfor its size and intensity. The energy released in that explosion was so bright that itexceeded the light output of all of the stars in five million Milky Way Galaxies. This was the death of a massive star collapsing as it formed a black hole.

University of Leicester, lead investigator, Dr. Julian Osborne, a member of the Swift UK Science Data Centre, said “It’s great to find so many GRBs in one day, and the discovery of the brightest burst ever seen will allow us to explore this incredible explosion in exquisite detail.”

gamma ray burst.
A gamma ray burst. Image: Wikipedia.

The Astronomers pinpointed the burst location using X-ray and Optical cameras on Swift, the Swift Science Team said.

The explosion happened at a distance of over twenty billion light years from Earth.

“The explosion happened at a distance of over twenty billion light years from Earth. To detect a naked eye object from such a distance really is extraordinary” – Dr. Paul O’Brien.

Other Astronomers around the world are now observing the decaying glow from that second burst of the day, as it fades. UK teams from the Universities of Leicester, Warwick and Hertfordshire were able to see this using the Gemini-North Telescope in Hawaii and the Liverpool John Moores University team, at the Liverpool Telescope on La Palma in the Canary Islands.

“Our Gemini observations allowed us to measure the distance to the GRB, and to investigate the behaviour of gas close to the burst as it was blasted by the energy of the explosion,” University of Leicester Professor Nial Tanvir said.

Information for this report was provided by UK Swift Science Data Centre and the University of Leicester.

Judyth Piazza is the host of the American Perspective Radio Program, a cutting edge radio program that is full of inspiration and information. It’s intended to help people succeed in life.

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