Unusually bright afterglow records what a galaxy was like soon after Big Bang
LONG BEACH, Calif. — Like a searchlight illuminating the distant past, the afterglow of a powerful gamma-ray burst has revealed what a stellar nursery in a remote galaxy looked like just 3 billion years after the Big Bang. The burst offers one of the earliest views of a star-forming region in the universe, which is now 13.7 billion years old.
The gamma-ray burst, recorded on June 7, 2008, and dubbed GRB 080607, is believed to have been generated when a massive star suddenly collapsed to form a black hole. While the burst itself lasted for only seconds, its fading afterglow in visible light remained remarkably bright for a full hour.
Jason Prochaska of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and his colleagues began observing the visible-light afterglow with the Keck I Telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea less than 20 minutes after the burst was recorded by NASA’s orbiting Swift observatory.
Prochaska reported the findings on January 6