Digital Journal: Scientists spot 12-billion-year-old star burst

A star exploded billions of years back, but the light of this explosion has just reached the earth, allowing scientists to peep into the past of the universe

The news web site digitaljournal.com covered the astronomy research of physicist Robert Kehoe, SMU professor, and two graduate students in the SMU Department of Physics, Farley Ferrante and Govinda Dhungana.

The astronomy team in May reported observation of intense light from the enormous explosion of a star more than 12 billion years ago — shortly after the Big Bang — that recently reached Earth and was visible in the sky.

Known as a gamma-ray burst, light from the rare, high-energy explosion traveled for 12.1 billion years before it was detected and observed by a telescope, ROTSE-IIIb, owned by SMU.

Gamma-ray bursts are believed to be the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life. SMU physicists report that their telescope was the first on the ground to observe the burst and to capture an image.

Recorded as GRB 140419A by NASA’s Gamma-ray Coordinates Network, the burst was spotted at 11 p.m. April 19 by SMU’s robotic telescope at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

Digitaljournal.com reporter Sonia D’Costa reported the news in her article “Scientists spot 12-billion-year-old star burst.”

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EXCERPT:

By Sonia D’Costa
digitaljournal.com

A star exploded billions of years back, but the light of this explosion has just reached the earth, allowing scientists to peep into the past of the universe and figure out what it might have been like during the earliest stages of its development.

The light was observed through a telescope at the McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis in Texas. Called a gamma-ray burst, this stellar explosion is believed to have taken place just after the Big Bang, over 12 billion years in the past.

Farley Ferrante, a physics student at the Southern Methodist University (SMU), which owns the telescope, said: “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.”

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