Apr 28, 2009
An international team of astronomers last week detected the most distant gamma-ray burst ever recorded, light that was emitted when the universe was less than 5 percent of its present age.
The burst, called GRB 090423 (after the date it was first seen), appears to signal the death throes of a massive star in the very early universe, just 630 million years after the big bang, according to NASA. (Current estimates peg the universe's age at around 13.7 billion years.)
NASA's Swift satellite picked up the short-lived burst Thursday—gamma-ray bursts usually last just minutes, even seconds—and a suite of follow-up observations of the explosion's afterglow at telescopes around the globe enabled an age estimate.
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