NASA Detects Explosion at Record Cosmic Distance

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An explosion that happened about 7.5 billion years ago was witnessed by a NASA satellite, marking the most distant explosion ever to be seen.

Occurring over more than half the distance of the entire known universe, the gamma ray explosion was of the type that is among the largest sequels to the so-called “Big Bang.” In fact, a scientist working on the project says that it is the largest explosion he had ever seen.

Although this particular explosion was record-setting, NASA set another record by observing four gamma ray blasts in a single day.

Called Swift, the NASA satellite that detected the explosion is equipped with a special telescope that detects gamma ray bursts as well as with an ultraviolet optical telescope and a X-ray telescope. According to NASA, Swift saw the blast occur at 2:12 am EDT on March 19.

Scientists working with the satellite say that the event happened in a constellation called Boötes.

Because of the magnitude of the blast, its afterglow was visible back on earth. Telescopes in Texas and Chile both witnessed the afterglow of the gamma burst, but NASA says that the afterglow could have been seen with the naked eye based on its magnitude.

Lights in space are measured by magnitude with lower numbers being darker and higher numbers being lighter. According to the report, natural vision can see lights that are slightly darker than magnitude 6 if the surrounding environment is dark.

Because scientists rated the magnitude of the afterglow of this blast as between 5 and 6, they estimate that it could have been seen, although space observers would have had to know where to look since the light still would have appeared more faint than a regular star. Of course the afterglow may have been spotted by accident, although it is unclear if a casual observer would recognize it as something so unique.

The news that NASA’s equipment can see across the universe is encouraging to many scientists and enthusiasts who one day hope to get an actual glimpse of the explosion that started life as we now know it.

NASA operates the Swift satellite from the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Other US institutions such as the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Penn State University and General Dynamics Corporation. Several foreign universities and laboratories are also involved in the project including some in the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and Germany.

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