May 25, 2017

31.05.11: Cosmic Distance Record Broken?

GRB 090429B as seen by Swift. (Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler).

Last week, a new possible record smasher was announced in the realm of cosmology. It seems that every few months, we get another “largest, biggest, farthest” in the world of gamma-ray bursters. This one, designated GRB 090429B was discovered by NASAs Swift satellite and recent photometric calculations place its redshift at z=9.4, which would make it about 13.14 billion light years distant. [Read more...]

Death by…Gamma-Ray Burst!


An artist’s impression of a very bad day…(Credit: ESO/A. Roquette).

Sure, we’ve all seen the movies with the impending death by asteroid or comet. You might have even heard of the havoc that can be wrecked by the Sun or an errant black hole, but have you ever heard of death by… gamma ray burst? Very much outside of public consciousness, this was but one of the more exotic ways humanity could have an official bad day that was outlined in Phil Plait’s outstanding Death from the Skies! But what are these exotic beasties, and just how likely are they? [Read more...]

4.10.9:A Gamma-Ray Burst for the Record Books.

An IR, Optical & UV Composite of GRB 090423 as seen from Swift. (Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler).

An IR, Optical & UV Composite of GRB 090423 as seen from Swift. (Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler).

A Gamma-ray burst from the primordial universe sent astronomers reeling earlier this year with the most distant sighting yet. The burst was picked up by NASA’s Swift spacecraft on April 23, 2009 at 3:55 EDT. E-mails and instant messages flew to observatories around the globe as astronomers raced to pin-point the fading afterglow. Dubbed GRB 090423, (get the year/month/day thing?) This burst measures in at a redshift of 8.2, or a distance of 13.035 billion light years. This hails from a time when the universe was a tender young age of only 630 years old, young, compared to our circa 14 billion year current age. The old record was a red shift of 6.7 set in September 2008. the current “holy grail” in cosmology is to break the “redshift 10″ barrier, which may well happen in the coming year. A gamma-ray burst occurs when a super massive star collapses into a black hole, briefly creating a “hyper-nova” in the process. Such events are the most luminous in the universe and are thought to have been common amoung first generation stars. Backup observations were provided by Italy’s Galileo national telescope in the Canary Islands and the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile.

Review: Death from the Skies! by Philip Plait.

Death from the Skies.

Get it now, before the Apocalypse…

Author and astronomer Phil Plait has a secret to share; the universe is out to kill you. It turns out that general feeling of paranoia we all feel at one time or another is indeed warranted; from meteors to black holes to alien invasions, the cosmos will eventually “get” us. In his latest book, Death from the Skies out recently from Penguin Books  Professor Plait (of Bad Astronomy fame) engagingly takes us through the realm of cosmic catastrophe, whacking humanity again and again with his “what if?” dramatic intros. [Read more...]