Researchers have said that intense light from an 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.
Farley Ferrante, a graduate student in SMU's Department of Physics, who monitored the observations along with two astronomers in Turkey and Hawaii, said gamma-ray bursts are believed to be the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life.
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.
Ferrante said as NASA points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang.
He said that these bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth's sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years.
To put into context the age of the new gamma-ray burst discoveries, Kehoe and Ferrante point out that the Big Bang occurred 13.81 billion years ago. GRB 140419A is at a red shift of 3.96, Ferrante said.
GRB 140419A's brightness, measured by its ability to be seen by someone on Earth, was of the 12th magnitude, Kehoe said, indicating it was only 10 times dimmer than what is visible through binoculars, and only 200 times dimmer than the human eye can see, Kehoe said.