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Ancient cosmic signal decoded

It's from near the dawn of time, man

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Scientists are still pondering the effects of a rather special gamnma ray burst they detected using NASA's Swift satellite in September, as reported at the time by The Reg.

While they remain something of a mystery, fluctuating levels in gamma rays have been linked to genetic mutations in the earth's species and levels of biodiversity. This matter will be explored by University of Kansas researchers at the April meeting of the American Physical Society in Dallas, Texas.

The rays are caused by the collapse of massive stars into black holes and collisions of both. According to Reuters news service, scientists have started reporting findings taken from the observations made in September.

At nearly 13bn years old, it is the most ancient burst of gamma rays yet discovered and was probably spewed out by the explosion of a massive star when the universe was barely older than a toddler.

If you set the universe's current age at 100, the gamma ray burst occurred when it was just 6, yet it only reached the earth in September.

Swift helped scientists understand the source of gamma rays last year. ®

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