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Huge 12 billion-year-old explosion in space spotted from Earth

Observation made by a telescope owned by SMU at the McDonald Observatory

Excerpt

The following is from the June 5, 2014, edition of The London Daily Mail.

From the SMU Research Blog:

Gamma-Ray Burst
Gamma-ray burst 1404191 was spotted by SMU’s robotic ROTSE-IIIb telescope at McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas.

Light from huge explosion 12 billion years ago reaches Earth

Intense light from the enormous explosion of a star more than 12 billion years ago — shortly after the Big Bang — 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 Southern Methodist University, Dallas.

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, said Farley Ferrante, a graduate student in SMU’s Department of Physics, who monitored the observations along with two astronomers in Turkey and Hawaii.

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.

Gamma-ray burst 1404191 was spotted at 11 p.m. April 19 by SMU’s robotic ROTSE-IIIb telescope at McDonald Observatory, Fort Davis, Texas.
Gamma-ray bursts are not well understood by astronomers, but they are considered important, Ferrante said.

“As NASA points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang,” he said. “These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth’s sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years.”

Some of these gamma-ray bursts appear to be related to supernovae, and correspond to the end-of-life of a massive star, said Robert Kehoe, physics professor and leader of the SMU astronomy team.

 

Read the full story.

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June 5, 2014

By Jonathan O'Callaghan

One of the biggest and hottest explosions in the universe - a rare event known as a gamma-ray burst (GRB) -has been spotted on camera.

And this particular event, caused by the enormous explosions of a star, occurred shortly after the Big Bang about 12.1 billion years ago.

The intense light recently reached Earth and it could give astronomers useful information about the conditions in the young universe.

Gamma-ray bursts are believed to be the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life.

The observation was made by the telescope Rotse-IIIB at the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, owned by the Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.

SMU physicists report that their telescope was the first on the ground to observe the burst, and to capture an image.

This particular explosion, first spotted back in April, was recorded as GRB 140419A by Nasa's Gamma-ray Coordinates Network (GCN).

Gamma-ray bursts are not well understood by astronomers, but they are considered important, according to Farley Ferrante, a graduate student in SMU's Department of Physics, who monitored the observations along with two astronomers in Turkey and Hawaii.

"As Nasa points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang," he said. "These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth's sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years."

SMU Physicist Robert Kehoe
Robert Kehoe

Some of these GRBs appear to be related to supernovae and correspond to the end-of-life of a massive star, said Dr. Robert Kehoe, physics professor and leader of the SMU astronomy team.

"Gamma-ray bursts may be particularly massive cousins to supernovae, or may correspond to cases in which the explosion ejecta are more beamed in our direction. By studying them, we learn about supernovae," Kehoe said.

Read the full story.

SMU Telescope at McDonald Observatory
SMU's ROTSE-IIIb robotic telescope.

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