Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Most Distant Cosmic Explosion Smashes Previous Record


Scientists using the NASA Swift satellite and several ground-based telescopes have detected the most distant explosion yet: a gamma-ray burst from the edge of the visible Universe.

This powerful burst, probably marking the death of a massive star as it collapsed into a black hole, was detected on 4th September 2005. The burst comes from an era soon after stars and galaxies first formed, less than a billion years after the Big Bang.

"How a single star could generate so much energy as to be seen across the entire Universe remains an unanswered question," said Dr Nial Tanvir from the University of Hertfordshire, who joined with other scientists on four continents in using a multitude of telescopes to track the burst and its afterglow for days as the burst gradually faded. "The fact that we can see it may now provide us with a new tool to help understand those very early times."

"This is uncharted territory," said Dr. Daniel Reichart of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who spearheaded the distance measurement. "This burst smashes the old distance record by 500 million light years. We are finally starting to see the remnants of some of the oldest objects in the Universe."

To date, only one quasar has been discovered further out in the Universe. Yet whereas quasars are supermassive black holes containing the mass of billions of stars, this burst comes from a single star.

The discovery is being heralded as a major breakthrough in the study of the early Universe. "The hunt is now on for further such bursts which we hope to be able to use as cosmic lighthouses to discover the state of the universe at a time when the first stars had only recently turned on," said Andrew Levan, another team member from the University of Hertfordshire.

Scientists measure cosmic distances via redshift, the extent to which light is "shifted" towards the red (lower energy) part of the electromagnetic spectrum during its long journey across the universe. The greater the distance, the higher the redshift.

The 4th September burst, named GRB 050904 for the date it was detected, had a redshift of 6.29, which translates to a distance of about 13 billion light years from Earth. (The Universe is thought to be 13.7 billion years old.) The previous most distant gamma-ray burst had a redshift of 4.5. The most distant quasar known is at redshift 6.4.

Swift, a joint US/UK/Italian mission, detected GRB 050904 and relayed its coordinates to scientists around the world within
minutes. Gamma-ray bursts disappear quickly, which is why Swift was designed to autonomously detect and locate bursts and notify the science community via e-mail, Web sites and even mobile phone text messages.

The team discovered the afterglow with the SOAR (Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research) telescope atop Cerro Pachon, Chile, and soon after it was picked up by the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope in Hawaii. Over the next several nights, these results were combined with further observations from the Gemini South telescope, also on Cerro Pachon, to calculate a redshift of greater than 6 via a light filtering technique.

Building upon all this information, a team led by Nobuyuki Kawai of the Tokyo Institute of Technology used the Subaru Observatory on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, to confirm the distance and fine-tune the redshift measurement to 6.29 via a technique called spectroscopy.

"We designed Swift to look for faint bursts coming from the edge of the Universe," said Dr. Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., Swift principal investigator. "Now we’ve got one and it’s fascinating. For the first time we can learn about individual stars from near the beginning of time. There are surely many more out there."

Anita Heward | alfa
Further information:

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

nachricht Scientists measure how ions bombard fusion device walls
28.10.2016 | American Physical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>