Huge gamma-ray blast spotted 12.2 bln light-years from earth

By | February 20, 2009

Huge gamma-ray blast spotted 12.2 bln light-years from earth

The US space agency’s Fermi telescope has detected a massive explosion in space which scientists say is the biggest gamma-ray burst ever detected, a report published Thursday in Science Express said.

The spectacular blast, which occurred in September in the Carina constellation, produced energies ranging from 3,000 to more than five billion times that of visible light, astrophysicists said.

“Visible light has an energy range of between two and three electron volts and these were in the millions to billions of electron volts,” astrophysicist Frank Reddy of US space agency NASA told AFP.

“If you think about it in terms of energy, X-rays are more energetic because they penetrate matter. These things don’t stop for anything — they just bore through and that’s why we can see them from enormous distances,” Reddy said.

A team led by Jochen Greiner of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics determined that the huge gamma-ray burst occurred 12.2 billion light years away.

The sun is eight light minutes from Earth, and Pluto is 12 light hours away.

Taking into account the huge distance from earth of the burst, scientists worked out that the blast was stronger than 9,000 supernovae — powerful explosions that occur at the end of a star’s lifetime — and that the gas jets emitting the initial gamma rays moved at nearly the speed of light.

“This burst’s tremendous power and speed make it the most extreme recorded to date,” a statement issued by the US Department of Energy said.

via Huge gamma-ray blast spotted 12.2 bln light-years from earth – Yahoo! News.

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