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Gamma-ray burst may reveal some of oldest dust in the universe

Remote flash may have uncovered supernova-generated dust from just 1 billion years after the Big Bang

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5:44pm, January 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — Astronomers may have detected smoke signals generated by a group of supernovas that blew up when the universe was less than 1.2 billion years old. If correct, the researchers have detected what would be one of the earliest known signs of supernova-produced dust in the universe, and the earliest dust detected thanks to a gamma-ray burst.

The exploding stars are too faint and lie too far away to be seen directly. But the smoke, or stardust, they produced when they erupted now appears to have been detected. The brilliant afterglow of a much more powerful type of eruption, a gamma-ray burst, has revealed the dust’s existence, a new analysis shows.

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