Feeds

Astronomers witness earliest ever star death

Gamma rays everywhere

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Astronomers have identified the most distant ever gamma ray burst, a cosmic event that took place when the universe was a mere 900 million years old, less than seven per cent of its present age.

A team of Italian astronomers made the final observations with the ESO Very Large Telescope, and was able to confirm that the burst took place approximately 12.7bn years ago.

"This also means that it is among the intrinsically brightest Gamma-Ray Bursts ever observed", said Guido Chincarini from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera and University of Milano-Bicocca. "Its luminosity is such that within a few minutes it must have released 300 times more energy than the Sun will release during its entire life of 10,000 million years."

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are widely thought to be caused by the collapse of supermassive stars into black holes. They are the most violent events ever to have occurred in the universe, aside from the big bang itself.

Researchers are particularly interested in GRBs because they give an indication of when stars began to evolve in the universe: if there is a gamma ray burst, the implication is that stars must have existed long enough for one to collapse into a black hole.

The explosion was first spotted by the Swift observatory on 5 September. Swift is set up to detect gamma ray bursts. It can respond to an initial detection within seconds, and will also alert ground-based observers.

In this case, the first telescope on the case was the Palomar Robotic 60-inch Telescope, which couldn't see the afterglow in the visible portion of the spectrum. Because of the physical limits of the telescope, this means the light from the explosion must be at least a million times fainter than something that could be seen with the naked eye.

Another team of observers found the afterglow shining in the near-infrared J-band at magnitude 17.5, at least 25 times brighter than the visible light. Further observations ruled out the possibility that the intervening space is filled with enough dust to significantly affect its magnitude, leading the astronomers to conclude that the burst must be one of the most distant ever recorded.

Italian astronomers then used the ESO (VLT) array to confirm the findings, some 24 hours after the initial detection. They made observations in four spectrum bands, from the visible through to the near infrared.

This allowed them to calculate a redshift of 6.3 for the object (redshift is a measure of how fast something is moving away from us) which conclusively dates the explosion as being some 12.7bn light years distant. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
You can crunch it all you like, but the answer is NOT always in the data
Hear that, 'data journalists'? Our analytics prof holds forth
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.