Light from massive explosion 12 billion years ago reaches Earth

According to a report from Southern Methodist University (SMU), a gamma-ray burst from the explosion of a star 12.1 billion years ago reached Earth recently and was detected by SMU’s own ROTSE-IIIb.

According to NASA, gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are short-lived bursts of gamma-ray light, the most energetic form of light.  Lasting anywhere from a few milliseconds to several minutes, GRBs shine hundreds of times brighter than a typical supernova and about a million trillion times as bright as the Sun.  When a GRB erupts, it is briefly the brightest source of cosmic gamma-ray photons in the observable Universe.

SMU physicists report that their telescope was the first ground-based telescope to observe the burst and to capture an image.  Identified as GRB 140419A by NASA’s Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, physicists spotted the burst at 11 p.m. Apr. 19 by SMU’s robotic telescope at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

A number of these gamma-ray bursts appear to be related to supernovae, and correspond to the death of a massive star, said Robert Kehoe, physics professor and leader of the SMU astronomy team.  “Gamma-ray bursts may be particularly massive cousins to supernovae, or may correspond to cases in which the explosion ejecta are more beamed in our direction,” he said.  “By studying them, we learn about supernovae.”

Until telescope technologies improved in the late 90s, scientists could not detect optical light from gamma-ray bursts.  Among all lights in the electromagnetic spectrum, gamma rays have the shortest wavelengths and are visible only using special detectors.

According to Kehoe, GRB 140419A’s brightness was of the 12th magnitude, signifying that it was only 10 times dimmer than what is visible through binoculars, and only 200 times dimmer than the human eye can see.

Enjoyed this article? Stay informed by joining our newsletter!


You must be logged in to post a comment.

Related Articles
About Author
Popular Articles
Mar 5, 2022, 8:59 PM Maged Abd ElNaser
Feb 19, 2022, 1:23 AM Bold Press
Mar 12, 2022, 3:17 PM Maged Abd ElNaser