Image Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/K. Paterson & W. Fong (Northwestern University)
The farther away an object lies in the universe, the fainter it appears through the lens of a telescope.
So when a Northwestern University-led team of astrophysicists detected an afterglow of a short gamma ray burst (SGRB) located 10 billion light years away, they were shocked. Afterglows, after all, are already incredibly faint and fast signals — sometimes lasting mere hours.
Known as SGRB181123B, the burst occurred just 3.8 billion years after the Big Bang. It is the second most-distant well-established SGRB ever detected and the most distant event with an optical afterglow.
“We certainly did not expect to discover a distant SGRB, as they are extremely rare and very faint,” said Northwestern’s Wen-fai Fong, a senior author of the study. “We perform ‘forensics’ with telescopes to understand its local environment, because what its home galaxy looks like can tell us a lot about the underlying physics of these systems.”
“We believe we are uncovering the tip of the iceberg in terms of distant SGRBs,” said Kerry Paterson, the study’s first author. “That motivates us to further study past events and intensely examine future ones.”
Round up of Media Mentions of CIERA/Northwestern
- CNN, “Astronomers witness ‘teenage’ years of our universe in explosion” by Ashley Strickland
- CNET, “Astronomers catch one of universe’s most powerful explosions, 10 billion years later” by Eric Mack
NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory, “Gemini Observatory’s Quick Reflexes Capture Fleeting Flash“
- W.M. Keck Observatory, “Maunakea Observatories’ Quick Reflexes Capture Fleeting Flash“
- IFL Science, “Astronomers Spot The Most Distant Afterglow Of A Short Gamma-Ray Burst Yet“
- The Independent, “SCIENTISTS SEE ‘INCREDIBLY FAST AND FAINT’ AFTERGLOW COMING FROM DEEPER IN SPACE THAN EVER BEFORE” by Andrew Griffin
- UPI, “Astronomers spot most distant fleeting flash afterglow from SGRB” by Sommer Brokaw
- Futurism, “TWO NEUTRON STARS COLLIDED, CREATING AN UNBELIEVABLE EXPLOSION” by Dan Robitzski