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NASA | Swift Finds Most Distant Gamma-ray Burst Yet

On April 29, 2009, a five-second-long burst of gamma rays from the constellation Canes Venatici triggered the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite. As with most gamma-ray bursts, this one -- now designated GRB 090429B -- heralded the death of a star some 30 times the sun's mass and the likely birth of a new black hole. "What's important about this event isn't so much the 'what' but the 'where,'" said Neil Gehrels, lead scientist for Swift at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "GRB 090429B exploded at the cosmic frontier, among some of the earliest stars to form in our universe." Because light moves at finite speed, looking farther into the universe means looking back in time. GRB 090429B gives astronomers a glimpse of the universe as it appeared some 520 million years after the universe began. Now, after two years of painstaking analysis, astronomers studying the afterglow of the explosion say they're confident that the blast was the farthest explosion yet identified -- and at a distance of 13.14 billion light-years, a contender for the most distant object now known. Swift's discoveries continue to push the cosmic frontier deeper back in time. A gamma-ray burst detected on Sept. 4, 2005, was shown to be lie 12.77 billion light-years away. Until the new study dethroned it, GRB 090423, which was detected just six days before the current record-holder, reigned a distance of about 13.04 billion light-years. All of these gamma-ray bursts were among the first 500 detected by Swift. This video is public domain and can be downloaded at: Like our videos? Subscribe to NASA's Goddard Shorts HD podcast: Or find NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Facebook: Or find us on Twitter:
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