A gamma ray eruption that happened about 12.1 billion years ago has been spotted, marking one of the first known samples of these ultra-powerful detonations. It's also one of the brightest ever seen GRB. Gamma-Ray bursts are rare but remarkably great explosions, supposed to occur as neutron stars form or fuse. Farley Ferrante, a Graduate scholar at Southern Methodist University's Department of Physics and one of the three astrophysicists who observed the afterglow, said "As NASA points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang. These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth's sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years."
Image Credit: ROTSE-IIIb, SMU. The afterglow of a 12 billion year old gamma ray burst is circled
As the name proposes, GRB’s are first seen in the high energy portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, but the afterglow can be seen at various other wavelengths. After being notified by the Swift Satellite to the occurrence of a burst ground based telescopes race to capture the “optical tail”. In this case it took just 55 seconds from Swift's reporting of the event to first detection on the ground. GRB 140419A was detected at 11pm on April 19 by SMU's robotic telescope.
One thing to be noted here is, this is not the oldest gamma ray burst identified. GRB 090423 is supposed to have happened 13 billion years ago, when the universe itself was 4% of its present age. Though, it was amazingly bright for such a distant entity. SMU's Professor Robert Kehoe pointed out that its 12th scale brightness is only ten times blurrier than what can be seen with backyard binoculars. Associated to the blurriest star we can see, Kehoe said “The difference in brightness is about the same as between the brightest star you can see in the sky, and the dimmest you can see with the naked eye on a clear, dark night. Considering this thing was at the edge of the visible universe, that's an extreme explosion. That was something big. Really big." GRB 140419A was too not the brightest gamma ray burst ever detected. In 2008 GRB 080319B was so perky people with very good vision could have seen it under dark skies with the only naked eye.
The mixture of such brightness and such distance marks the fresher event among the most powerful well-known.
The precise source of Gamma Ray Bursts is still debated; but, in most cases the link with supernovae is clear. Kehoe said "Gamma-ray bursts may be particularly massive cousins to supernovae, or may correspond to cases in which the explosion ejects are more beamed in our direction. By studying them, we learn about supernovae,"
The similar SMU-run telescope traced the luminosity of a nearly equally distant, but not as bright, four days later.
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