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NASA depiction of the exploding star as witnessed by the Swift observatory  (Source: NASA)
Star half way across the known universe exploded when existence was half its current age

There is an old adage that goes, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

A similar question was answered on Friday, “If a star blew up some 6 billion years ago when no one was on Earth, would anyone have seen it?”

The answer to that question is yes, we could see it, last week in fact. A star in a distant, previously unknown galaxy, exploded when the universe was about half its current age, some 6 billion years ago. This star was according to NASA about 40 times larger than our sun.

The explosion of the star resulted in a gamma ray burst that originated 7.5 billion light years away from Earth. It has taken these billions of years for the light from that explosion to reach Earth. NASA’s Swift satellite first detected the gamma rays at 2:12 a.m. Wednesday March 18, 2008.

The light from the explosion would have been visible by the naked eye if anyone had been outside to see last week. So bright was the light that it set a new record for the most distant object to be seen from Earth by the naked eye.

CNN quotes Neil Gehrels from NASA as saying, “Someone would have had to run out and look at it with a naked eye, but didn't.” The light would have appeared in the sky as bright as some of the stars in the handle of the Little Dipper constellation according to astronomer David Burrows. Burrow’s says that “This [explosion] is roughly halfway to the edge of the universe.”

Gehrels added that the explosion would have vaporized any planet nearby.  Likely, the gamma ray burst would have eradicated anything in its path for thousands of light years.  Earth dwellers had little to worry though, as the explosion took place so far away.

A single Polish observatory is the only verified organization to have taken a ground-based image of the gamma ray burst from the supernova.

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Even brighter than that
By masher2 on 3/24/2008 1:09:51 PM , Rating: 3
This GRB was several trillions of times brighter than your average supernova. GRBs are incredibly powerful....a large one can be (briefly) as bright as all the rest of stars in the universe combined.

RE: Even brighter than that
By marsbound2024 on 3/24/2008 1:13:30 PM , Rating: 6
Coinciding with the passing of Arthur C. Clarke. The Universe appeared to just light up with gamma ray bursts:

RE: Even brighter than that
By SilthDraeth on 3/24/2008 1:43:31 PM , Rating: 3
Very coincidental.

Good catch.

RE: Even brighter than that
By KaiserCSS on 3/24/2008 2:09:24 PM , Rating: 2
Good Lord, that is truly amazing...

:'( I will miss him. Talk about going out with a bang, though.

RE: Even brighter than that
By Spyvie on 3/24/2008 2:10:58 PM , Rating: 3

I wish I still had a vote

RE: Even brighter than that
By marsbound2024 on 3/24/2008 2:28:38 PM , Rating: 5
Thanks guys. As an aside, I would also like to point out that Mark Twain was born two weeks exactly after Comet Halley's perihelion and died the day following its next perihelion about 75 years later:'s_Comet

The universe loves its writers. ;)

RE: Even brighter than that
By T4RTER S4UCE on 3/24/2008 9:31:59 PM , Rating: 2
I guess God reads alot.

RE: Even brighter than that
By lompocus on 3/24/2008 10:57:04 PM , Rating: 3
lol, i was thinking the same thing.

"Damnit, my favorite earth writer just died! Ima blow up some stars now :)"

RE: Even brighter than that
By Timeless on 3/25/2008 4:37:49 AM , Rating: 5
Wouldn't it be more like God saw Arthur's death 6 billion years ahead of time and blew up the star?

RE: Even brighter than that
By spe1491 on 3/25/2008 12:00:19 PM , Rating: 4
I guess God reads ahead a little....

RE: Even brighter than that
By Starcub on 3/26/2008 4:11:52 PM , Rating: 2
I bet Stalin turned over in his grave.

RE: Even brighter than that
By charliee on 3/24/08, Rating: -1
RE: Even brighter than that
By RjBass on 3/24/2008 3:45:45 PM , Rating: 4
I have a feeling that your preaching to a group who more believe in actual science rather then the misinterpreted words of a long since mutilated book.

RE: Even brighter than that
By EODetroit on 3/25/2008 9:37:38 AM , Rating: 2
No, it means that the end of days will come in the form of a gamma ray burst in our own galaxy. Obviously, duh.

RE: Even brighter than that
By knowyourenemy on 3/25/2008 10:49:38 AM , Rating: 2
I don't get the bashing. I'm not religious at all but I still found it cool. Just because a guy quotes a religious text does not make it preaching, especially in this context.


RE: Even brighter than that
By RjBass on 3/27/2008 12:43:38 AM , Rating: 1
It's not that really. It's that Mr. Charliee always quotes scripture, but never says anything else. His only words are not his own but rather the words of a flawed book that has been torn apart by various religions and then misinterpreted by many more. And then when those lines of scripture are brought fourth into the realm of science where actual fact rules, then it's not so surprising when he is laughed at.

RE: Even brighter than that
By AmyM on 3/29/2008 3:27:57 PM , Rating: 4
That was unnecessary.

RE: Even brighter than that
By derwin on 3/24/2008 4:41:59 PM , Rating: 4
What exactly, if anything are you trying to accomplish with this post?

Are you trying to convince people of the truth of the bible with the Nostradomical quotations?

Yes, the words "light," "see," "brightness," "world," "power," all sort of relate to this story, but they also relate to eclipses, shooting stars, comets, asteroids, nuclear bombs, the sun, and pretty much every other star...

So in short, stop it. Not here. Find some sheep or something, but don't insult my intelligence.

God may exist, I'm not arrogant enough to say he doesn't... but this bologna needs to go.

RE: Even brighter than that
By derwin on 3/24/2008 4:42:49 PM , Rating: 2
with **these** Nostradomical....

bleh, edit button

RE: Even brighter than that
By Necaradan666 on 3/24/2008 6:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
I think he's saying that when God came down in his spaceship he told all the cavemen that one day in the future the sun would explode but that they would be back beforehand to take some of us to a new planet......

That's what I got from those quotes anyway...

RE: Even brighter than that
By charliee on 3/25/08, Rating: 0
RE: Even brighter than that
By Belard on 3/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Even brighter than that
By DeathSniper on 3/25/2008 11:27:59 AM , Rating: 2
Science *is* wrong sometimes and science does *not* always work. I can assure you of this having seen first-hand mis-diagnosis based on facts obtained from "science" on patients and please note that there *is* a reason why percentages are given for many medical treatments based on science. I'm not trying to bash science but please note that it is not the "end-all, be-all" and that we as humans still have oh-so-very much to learn.

RE: Even brighter than that
By Belard on 3/31/2008 1:16:40 AM , Rating: 2
I'm not talking about medical issues - but objects in space. People are still "human" (well maybe not all) - but the science of many medical treatments ACTUALLY do work verses holding a book and telling a god "heal me", whatever.

There is nothing to learn from a book, written by several MEN telling both stories and histoical events and then translated, then combined into a single book as chosen by other men and then interpeted by others based on their own opinion or agendas.

Our Science has been able to send probes to another planet, millions of miles away (Mars) and land on it.

We learn more about our universe and our planet everyday... its an amazing thing. Now if we don't manage to destory the planet, perhaps we'll be able to travel to the stars - which is the ONLY way we'll be able to continue mankind.

But then again, after a few million more years, what is "man" won't be the same today.

RE: Even brighter than that
By lompocus on 3/24/08, Rating: -1
RE: Even brighter than that
By charliee on 3/25/08, Rating: -1
RE: Even brighter than that
By Jellodyne on 3/28/2008 3:40:49 PM , Rating: 2
> The Lord himself made a preface to the book in section 1

Talk about getting a big name to do your intro. Does he get royalties or what? BTW, in case you want to get critical, I'd like to say the Lord Himself wrote this post. Obey, fool!

RE: Even brighter than that
By Jypster on 3/24/2008 8:54:19 PM , Rating: 2
So you mean Galaxy, not Universe ?

There are approx 10^11 stars in the Milkyway and 10^12 Galaxies in the known Visable Universe. So even the largest Red Giants would not have enough matter to outshine all the stars in the Universe... maybe a few Galxies worth though

RE: Even brighter than that
By masher2 on 3/25/2008 12:15:08 AM , Rating: 5
A normal supernova can outshine all the stars in its own galaxy. GRBs are far more luminous than that.

From a standpoint of total energy output, the most powerful GRBs can (very briefly) output some 10^47 joules. Our entire galaxy combined averages some 10^36 joules. That makes such an event some 100 billion times more energetic....which is (very roughly) the total number of galaxies in the Universe.

To clarify though, *most* GRBs are about 3 orders of magnitude less luminous, making them still equivalent to millions of galaxies combined, but only a tiny fraction of the total power output of the universe.

RE: Even brighter than that
By MrPoletski on 3/25/2008 5:00:18 AM , Rating: 2
It's an ACR burst.

Alien Curry Revenge.

RE: Even brighter than that
By Visual on 3/25/2008 1:27:51 PM , Rating: 2
that's quite interesting...
at first i just assumed you were talking about their visible brightness, but your last clarifications really helped to put things into perspective.

RE: Even brighter than that
By curiousgeorgieo on 3/25/2008 3:33:25 AM , Rating: 3
Hey did you guys notice that on the same day that we first saw the explosion there was a meteor shower somewhere over smallville texas.

RE: Even brighter than that
By MrPoletski on 3/25/2008 4:41:28 AM , Rating: 3
Destroyed all planets within a thousand light years???

screw nukes, I think we just found the WMD of the future...

I wonder
By pauldovi on 3/24/2008 1:46:03 PM , Rating: 2
Does anyone have an idea of what mind of caused such an explosion?

I am really surprised that there wasn't mass in between us and this explosion that blocked us from seeing it.

RE: I wonder
By marsbound2024 on 3/24/2008 1:59:03 PM , Rating: 3
Given that any such mass would have to be a supermassive black hole bending the light in such a way as to cause gravitational lensing. Even then, you would basically see multiple "virtual images" of the explosion. This explosion was so bright that no mass could occlude it. Anything massive enough to block such a thing could not retain its shape and would certainly form into an instantaneous supermassive black hole.

As far as what caused the explosion, well... the only thing I could think of is that this extremely heavy star was near perfectly collimated with the Earth as to project the bulk of its gamma ray burst in our direction. Think of the jets spun out by quasars for a visual.

RE: I wonder
By dever on 3/24/2008 2:56:41 PM , Rating: 2
How about our moon, or sun or nearby planet or star? Anything that appears as big or bigger in the sky - from our perspective - than this event could have blocked it, correct?

RE: I wonder
By marsbound2024 on 3/24/2008 3:05:33 PM , Rating: 3
You do have a point. But the odds of one of these objects blocking our view of this event (other than the apparent size of the Sun) are pretty slim. The moon also moves far enough in one hour (as does the Earth rotating) that a GRB would likely "pop out" and reveal itself.

I am sure there are other powerful explosions that we don't see because they are occluded by our parent star. Though you must remember that Swift detected it and Swift is in orbit around the Earth so even planetary bodies in our solar system have very little chance of occluding a GRB as they occupy a tiny miniscule fraction of the night sky (one dot of it). Also, Swift's detection focuses on gamma rays and thus visible light doesn't make a difference (to rule out the sun's glare as a problem).

So basically, yes it is possible, but not all too likely considering our abilities through telescopes such as Swift.

RE: I wonder
By Starcub on 3/26/2008 4:25:46 PM , Rating: 2
There must be some funky physics going on if something only as big as 40 suns can explode and destroy an object 1000 light years away and the explosion only be visible for 1 night.

RE: I wonder
By dice1111 on 3/24/2008 3:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
Believe it or not, Space is actually very very empty (hence the term "Space"). Well, it is until we get this dark matter issue resolved...

Regarding Dark matter; Hurry up you people way smarter then me! I need someone to satisfy my curiosity!

RE: I wonder
By roadrun777 on 3/25/2008 7:35:20 AM , Rating: 2
If you have ever taken a hallucinogen that affects or effects the visual cortex, you will notice cracks in the fabric of the everything that you see. This could be dark matter peeking at you.

RE: I wonder
By dice1111 on 4/4/2008 3:50:10 PM , Rating: 2
I have, but my trip was more "everything is made up of sooo many molecules and moved all over the place". Just different stuff I guess. ;)

RE: I wonder
By Steve Guilliot on 3/24/2008 5:04:15 PM , Rating: 2
Blocking mass, such as clouds of dust, is primarily an issue when looking into the disc of our galaxy. When looking at objects outside of the Milkyway, especially normal to the disk, there is much less material. Many variables involved, including where the object is in the destination galaxy too. I'm just stating generalities.

RE: I wonder
By Kyanzes on 3/24/2008 5:27:37 PM , Rating: 2
But it wasn't blocked. If it had been blocked we would not have detected it.

RE: I wonder
By lompocus on 3/24/2008 11:30:19 PM , Rating: 2

It's not exactly a gurenteed answer, but there is the possiblity. ya never know!

Or, an alien race has developed a means by which to focus an incredibly large explosion into the vicinity of a detected civilization, thereby alerting everyone of their presence!

I'm one for far fetched ideas (but ya never know about the God one! It WAS easter yesterday, and the IS when it was detected! Or it was detected on Friday!)

RE: I wonder
By JonnyDough on 3/25/2008 4:14:13 PM , Rating: 2
"Does anyone have an idea of what mind of caused such an explosion?"

In two words? Death Star.

RE: I wonder
By Goty on 3/30/2008 3:53:02 PM , Rating: 2
Probably a merger of two neutron stars, or the collapse of a star massive enough to form a black hole, that kind of thing.

By FITCamaro on 3/24/2008 1:40:22 PM , Rating: 3
If the star exploded, its no longer there. If it's no longer there, how is it the most distant object to be seen from earth? It's no longer an object. :)

RE: Question
By pauldovi on 3/24/2008 2:23:06 PM , Rating: 2
Event :)

RE: Question
By cochy on 3/24/2008 2:34:39 PM , Rating: 3
It's still there. Probably a nasty black hole.

RE: Question
By Felofasofa on 3/24/2008 9:49:26 PM , Rating: 2
Or a neutron star

RE: Question
By xCross on 3/25/2008 12:31:06 PM , Rating: 2
it should not be a neutron star.. should be a black hole or a white dwarf.. maybe a black hole..
after our sun dies it will be at almost a same size of earth as a white dwarf and it's mass will 300 times more than the earth!

RE: Question
By deeznuts on 3/24/2008 3:07:51 PM , Rating: 2
Eh, who says it isn't there anymore? There usually is always a remnant of some sort after these explosions.

I think our own sun would be a white dwarf (then black) after it dies. I'm not even sure the Sun would even have a nova of sorts, it'll just bloat then die off. Of course I may be mistaken.

RE: Question
By cochy on 3/24/2008 3:12:48 PM , Rating: 3
You're right. In the end our Sun will become a white dwarf surrounded by a planetary nebula after it's mass is blown off into space.

By UppityMatt on 3/24/2008 1:08:49 PM , Rating: 5
Its just hard for my brain to even comprehend the magnitude and distance of our universe. Articles like this make me wish we would spend more money on space exploration and research. There is nothing greater than being able to look to the stars above and just imagine where we could go. Great Article

By therealnickdanger on 3/24/2008 1:12:06 PM , Rating: 5
Indeed very cool! I'm sorry that I missed it. Chances are high that it was snowing here anyway and I would have missed it even if I had known. :P

It is astonishing to look up at the sky and know that how things appear are not at all how they really are.

By Spyvie on 3/24/2008 1:52:26 PM , Rating: 2
"Articles like this make me wish we would spend more money on space exploration and research"

Research yes, but articles like this remind me that extra solar exploration will be near impossible for a long time. IF we could travel the speed of light it would still take billions of years to reach the site of this nova. Yes there are closer stars but even the closest would require a lifetime commitment, assuming we could get past the radiation.

It will just never happen without some kind of unthinkable physics breakthrough, something like Herbert's space folding or some mystical astro projection or whatever...

By JonnyDough on 3/25/2008 4:17:24 PM , Rating: 2
We need more of those "get excited about science" commercials to get young minds interested in discovering our universe and how things work and exist, rather than those "believe what I believe" commercials you find at religious assemblies...

Fuzzy Astronomy
By Houdani on 3/24/2008 5:19:42 PM , Rating: 2
Pardon my ignorance, as my connection to astronomy ends right around the same time as the credits to Star Trek roll, but if the star went boom 6 billion years ago and it was 7.5 billion light years away ... then how are we "seeing" it today? Shouldn’t we be setting our atomic alarm clocks for 1.5 billion years from now?

Granted, I'm equating:
Thus, one gamma ray year ~ one light year.

I suppose if we were moving towards the location of The Event at a rate of 0.25c we would catch a glimpse of it today, but that seems a bit speedy – on the order of 125 times too speedy (assuming the Milky Way is hurtling through space at 600km/s, in the right direction even).

I guess my relativity is lacking.

RE: Fuzzy Astronomy
By masher2 on 3/25/2008 12:29:21 AM , Rating: 2
No, you're correct. The event was 7.5B light-years away, so it occurred 7.5B years ago.

RE: Fuzzy Astronomy
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/25/2008 7:28:57 AM , Rating: 2
This doesn't make any sense. If the universe is supposedly about 15 billion years old and this star blew up 7 billion years ago, wouldn't that mean it possibly blew up around the time the big bang happened? Considering how long it took for us to get where we are now? Our galaxy is not moving at light speed, right? Let's say we rewound time 7 billion years, that would put our galaxy about 7-8 billion years from the Big Bang, right? If that's the case, where exactly is this star? It shouldn't even exist? Am I making any sense?

RE: Fuzzy Astronomy
By roadrun777 on 3/25/2008 7:56:16 AM , Rating: 2
your thinking too linear

try thinking in 4D (four dimensions)

The universe as a whole looks sort of like a doughnut with the edges wrapping around into the center, but outside the boundary physical laws don't really apply so being inside the doughnut we see the outward edge as not moving, but inwardly everything seems to be racing away from the center which is derived by relative motion observation. Time itself is like an index point that is fixed and is NOT relative. Time is what makes everything move, and since we have no reference point to the beginning of time you can not really know exactly when the big bang occurred. The estimates we have are based on math of current relative speed and positions of our neighbors in space not the origin of time itself, which would be the true starting point of the big bang.
When your trying to judge the age of the universe just remember that there is a point in time where time itself is infinite and non existent at the same time, so it's hard to judge these things.
If you want me to explain this in a simple 2D model for you, think of it like this.
imagine a circle now put two dots on opposite ends of the circle, now draw a line through both dots and put arrows on both ends of the line. Now imagine those dots moving away from each other along the line at tremendous speeds, if I threw a ball from one dot to the other it would take much longer to reach the other dot than if they weren't moving at all. Does that help?

RE: Fuzzy Astronomy
By ShaolinSoccer on 3/25/2008 8:19:32 AM , Rating: 2
yes it did lol. thank you very much :)

RE: Fuzzy Astronomy
By Moritz on 3/30/2008 8:07:21 PM , Rating: 2
"Now imagine those dots moving away from each other along the line at tremendous speeds, if I threw a ball from one dot to the other it would take much longer to reach the other dot than if they weren't moving at all. "

Poor Albert, rolling around in his grave..
The theory of relativity makes it very clear that light speed is independent of the referential. so you could be running away from the source still the light will reach you at the same time if you were not moving away from the source. Now if we were talking about gravitational distortion of the light trajectory, it's a different thing.

By waltzendless on 3/24/2008 1:11:44 PM , Rating: 5
Some 6 billion years ago? Psshhh, who wants to hear old news. Dailytech you're getting lazy with the news updates.

RE: Yawn....
By therealnickdanger on 3/24/2008 1:12:50 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Yawn....
By PitViper007 on 3/24/2008 4:17:53 PM , Rating: 2
OK, the typical "DT Old News" posts just tick me off, but this was damned funny....

How long?
By Sylar on 3/24/2008 3:54:28 PM , Rating: 2
Before the shockwave hits us? =P

Is there video anywere of this event? Someone must've recorded it.

RE: How long?
By masher2 on 3/24/2008 4:13:20 PM , Rating: 2
I saw one such video; Google should turn it up. It was a very brief event, however :)

RE: How long?
By Sazar on 3/24/2008 6:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
It was less than an hour long, I guess some people consider that brief :)

"However, NASA has no reports that any skywatchers spotted the burst, which lasted less than an hour. "

RE: How long?
By masher2 on 3/25/2008 12:22:28 AM , Rating: 2
The portion of the event visible to the naked eye lasted less than a minute. You can see a clip of the event here, as picked up by Pi of the Sky:

By TerranMagistrate on 3/24/2008 1:27:48 PM , Rating: 2
Star half way across the galaxy exploded when universe was half its current age

Isn't it supposed to be half way across the universe?

RE: Galaxy?
By cochy on 3/24/2008 2:39:36 PM , Rating: 2
Even that is not accurate. It should read "half way across the visible Universe". The total size of the Universe is much larger than 14B light years.

RE: Galaxy?
By cochy on 3/24/2008 3:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
"Known" is good enough. Better ring to it than "Visible" =)

By kzrssk on 3/24/2008 1:41:31 PM , Rating: 2
I wish I had known last week. We had nothing but sunny skies here in Arizona.

RE: Curses!
By Sazar on 3/24/2008 2:31:46 PM , Rating: 2
It wasn't sunny, it was the SUPERNOVA !!!


RE: Curses!
By nekobawt on 3/24/2008 2:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, too bad you have to go out into the desert to see any decent amount of stars. You can scarcely see the stars for the streetlights out here in Phoenix....

Amazing that we can see it
By MrBungle on 3/24/2008 1:43:05 PM , Rating: 2
I think it's also amazing that this light traveled all that distance without being obscured by anything - pretty strong evidence of how much empty space there is in the universe.

By KristopherKubicki on 3/24/2008 2:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
Both valid points. Although anything "local" (like in the same galaxy) to the supernova probably got turned to dust with this GRB.

A supernova?
By Joz on 3/24/08, Rating: -1
RE: A supernova?
By Joz on 3/24/08, Rating: -1
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