The light was observed through a telescope at the McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis in Texas. Called a gamma-ray burst, this stellar explosion is believed to have taken place just after the Big Bang, over 12 billion years in the past.
Farley Ferrante, a physics student at the Southern Methodist University (SMU), which owns the telescope, said: “Gamma-ray bursts
are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang. These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our Earth’s sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years.”
Astronomers still do not understand gamma-ray bursts
, but surmise that they result when a star collapses during its last days. Referring to them as “massive cousins to supernovae,” Robert Kehoe, who leads the team at SMU, said that humans can learn more about supernovae by studying gamma-ray bursts. In fact, scientists started detecting gamma-ray bursts only when telescope technology developed in the late nineties.
Astronomers can now use images of this gamma-ray burst to improve their understanding of the universe when it was just being formed. As Kehoe puts it, “the universe looked vastly different than it does now.” Explaining further
, he said that the universe was in such an early stage when the star exploded that it did not have the heavy elements required to create planets such as Earth.