Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Furthest Gamma-Ray Burst Ever Observed

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the really-really-old-news-that-is-new-to-us dept.

Space 273

jd writes "The SWIFT team have announced the furthest-ever observed super-massive gamma-ray burst (from 13 billion light years away). The burst was observed on the 6th of September and lasted for 3 minutes - long enough for a number of other telescopes to home in on the gigantic explosion. The distance is only barely within the reaches of the observable universe. The idea of the SWIFT telescope and follow-up observations is that they will discover both the cause of the bursts and the consequences to the star."

cancel ×

273 comments

A long time ago in a galaxy light years away.... (5, Funny)

mr100percent (57156) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554158)

I feel a great disturbance in the Force (which we all know travels at the speed of light). As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

Re:A long time ago in a galaxy light years away... (2, Funny)

Michael Scott (847758) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554177)

The force is strong in this one...

Re:A long time ago in a galaxy light years away... (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554196)

I feel a great disturbance in the Force (which we all know travels at the speed of light). As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

Well, Cuba did offer to help, but....
       

Re:A long time ago in a galaxy light years away... (1)

jacen_sunstrider (797955) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554269)

Uhh....no it doesn't. lawl. It moves beyond light.

Re:A long time ago in a galaxy light years away... (2, Funny)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554431)

The history of Al Quaeda has been long indeed.

First Burst! (-1, Offtopic)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554161)

I mean post

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554162)

first post

Re:first post (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554181)

Maybe it was the universe's first post, or the explosion caused by the first moderators giving the first post first -1.

Black holes are where God divides by 0. Gamma explosions are where God divides by 0.0000000000000000001 - God's accountant

Re:first post (2, Funny)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554279)

Naw...it's the first flame war!

Re:first post (2, Funny)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554301)

Like Q said to Galactus, "I like your big funny hat, except for those weird horn things on the side."

Galactus said nothing.

This pissed off Q, who continued, "Hey big man. Feeling big and purple are we? What, want to eat a planet? That's nothing. I can eat a whole star!"

Galactus said nothing, again, but more loudly.

"Okay," said Q. "You have that ultimate nullifier thingee that makes you all so stuck up. Well, here, let me show you something!"

And then Q blew up the star as Galactus thought Troll and went looking for a planet to eat.

woahh (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554164)

gamma gamma hey hey

gamma rays make my butthole tickle (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554330)

that is why i love them.

light instead of gamma (2, Interesting)

slothman32 (629113) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554172)

When supernovae occur you can see them. Are they the brightest visible object? What would this look like if it were light instead of gamma? Or even alpha or beta?

Re:light instead of gamma (3, Informative)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554230)

When supernovae occur you can see them. Are they the brightest visible object?

Galaxies are the brightest visable objects. Well, actually quasars are, but are thought to be galaxies or at least closely related to them. But the total energy put out by gamma bursts is far larger than the energy put out by supernova. It is just that they do it over a wider area of the spectrum such that their visible light component is roughly comparable to supernova but beat them by far in higher-energy radiation.
       

Re:light instead of gamma (0)

Ignorant Aardvark (632408) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554239)

Light instead of gamma? Alpha or beta? What in the hell are you talking about?

Gamma radiation IS light. As is visible light, infrared, radio, etc. There is no such thing as "alpha" or "beta" radiation.

Re:light instead of gamma (5, Informative)

UnrefinedLayman (185512) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554288)

For being so feisty, are you quite sure there's no such thing as alpha and beta radiation?

http://www.orau.gov/reacts/alpha.htm [orau.gov]

http://www.orau.gov/reacts/beta.htm [orau.gov]

Both are particle radiation and both plentifully originate in stars. You can read more about them in Wikipedia also.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Particle_radiation [wikipedia.org]

Re:light instead of gamma (3, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554524)

Light is usually defined as visible light. If you start using the term light to refer to radio waves, you'll only sound very confused.

As someone else already pointed out there is such a thing as alpha and beta radiation. I'd suggest some remedial physics classes before you discuss physics with anyone again.

Re:light instead of gamma (4, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554252)

Well, the leading idea about (this type of) gamma ray burst says that they're associated with supernovas. So, they look like supernovas.

Quasars are the most luminous long-lived light sources. Gamma ray bursts can release more energy for short periods of time, but there are arguments about to what extent the energy is beamed in a preferred direction (complicating efforts to calculate total energy released).

I'm not sure what you mean by "alpha and beta?" Are you talking about alpha and beta radiation? Apples and oranges, although all are called "radiation". Gamma rays are a form of light (very high energy photons), while alpha and beta radiation isn't electromagnetic radiation at all, but rather particles (He nuclei and electrons).

Re:light instead of gamma (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554290)

supernovae and gamma-ray bursts are not the same thing. Gamma rays are of a much higher energy than visable light, so we can detect them from verylarge distances. gamma-ray bursts are theorized to be created when supermassive stars collapse on themselves, forming a black hole and somehow releasing a very large amount of energy. There are anywhere from 1 to 5, on average, gamma ray bursts detected by orbiting satellites every day, with the older ones being associated with a larger doppler shift (red shift) of their absorbtion spectrum.

supernovae are visable as very bright stars in the sky when they occur (rather when the light from their explosion reaches us, a long long time after they actually occur). The root nova means 'new' in latin, as these would appear in places in the sky where no (visable to us) star had been previously, before dying away.

alpha and beta radiation is not part of the same electromagnetic spectrum that gramma and other types of radiation, never mind that a simple peice of paper will stop alpha particles. alpha particles are composed of something akin to a helium nucleus, with two protons and two neutrons. beta particles are either electrons or positrons depending on the type of beta decay.

Re:light instead of gamma (2, Insightful)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554312)

i forgot, in OUR night sky, within the visable light spectrum, the moon is surely the brightest object, followed by venus, some other planets, and then i believe sirius. I supposed a realtively close and bright supernova could outshine all the other stars, and maybe even all the planets, but it would have a tough time competing with luna.

Re:light instead of gamma (4, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554356)

For a homework problem, I have my astronomy students calculate how bright the Galactic core would be if it were a quasar and there wasn't any obscuring dust in the plane of the galaxy. It turns out to be about the brightness of the full moon, but since it would be smaller, it would be more striking. That's at a distance of 8 kpc or so.

Re:light instead of gamma (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554419)

wouldnt we be screwed if there was a quasar that close? they have a nasty habit of eating stars.

Re:light instead of gamma (2, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554475)

No. The effects of a black hole's gravity, even a supermassive one, are rather limited. We'd need to be within a few light years to have a problem with our sun being tidally disrupted. The radiation would destroy all life on Earth long before we got close enough to have problems associated with the supermassive black hole. We'd likely be fine with a weak quasar in the Milky Way as the gas and dust in the plane would block the vast majority of its radiative output in our direction.

Re:light instead of gamma (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554530)

even after 10 billion years?

Re:light instead of gamma (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554547)

We already have a million solar mass black hole at the center of the Milky Way and billions of stars have been fine for billions of years. We orbit at a very safe distance, as do most stars. Only stars in the core, or in highly elliptical orbits taking them into the core, are in any danger of disruption. The central black holes of galaxies are only about 1/1000 as massive as the galaxies they live within, and it is the total galaxy gravitational potential that primarily determines the motions of stars making it up.

Re:light instead of gamma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554325)

From my astronomy course, in July 1054 there was a supernova from what is now the Crab Nebula. The reason we know this happened is because the Arabs, Chinese, Japanese, and Native Americans could see it (even in daylight!) for three weeks.

So, while you don't always see them, it's quite possible for them to be visible in the sky (or even daylight). Of course, the majority of the radiation that's there isn't in the visible spectrum.

brighest? yes (1)

weighn (578357) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554370)

Yes, they are the brightest astronomical events that have been observed. The radiation emmited is across the spectrum, so yes, you would see it (if it wasn't massively red-shifted).

From the wikipedia article, regarding GRB 990123:

The combination of obvious brightness and implied distance of GRB 990123 led to two possibilities.

The first was that the radiation of the gamma ray burst was spread evenly. This implied that the gamma-ray energy released by the burst was equivalent to that which would be produced by converting the entire mass of a star 1.3 times the mass of our Sun completely into gamma radiation (see mass-energy equivalence). At visual wavelengths, if the burst had occurred 2,000 light years away within our own Galaxy, it would have shone twice as bright as the Sun.

Re:light instead of gamma (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554400)

When supernovae occur you can see them.

Well, I wish...

Dupe? (-1, Flamebait)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554174)

Well, perhaps no, but I've been reading EVERY OTHER NEWS SOURCE, and they all already reported this.

Re:Dupe? (-1, Offtopic)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554237)

Hey, mod, what does NEWS mean? Perhaps that info is NEW?

Re:Dupe? (1)

Peyna (14792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554299)

Well, perhaps no, but I've been reading EVERY OTHER NEWS SOURCE, and they all already reported this.

Considering that Slashdot is not a news source (with the exception of a very few limited original articles) but instead, a place to comment about the news as already published elsewhere, this should not be surprising at all.

Re:Dupe? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554450)

amen to that.

It always pisses me off how moronic story submissions state "previously covered on slashdot".

Mouhahahaha. Covered what? they sent cowboineyl to report live on the scene of the late breaking news?

fucking morons.

NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (5, Informative)

Propagandhi (570791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554183)

Imagine there are a few people rather lost at the headline (we're not all astronomers/cosmologists/whatever :) ). Anyway, NOVA ran an excellent show on this a couple years ago, and as usual there was an excellent companion website [pbs.org] .

If that doesn't answer your questions, well... there's always Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] . /I feel like a Karma whore linking to wikipedia, mod me as you see fit..

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (3, Interesting)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554320)


The distance is only barely within the reaches of the observable universe.

I remember hearing this phrase before, and hearing an explanation, but it didn't make sense. Can you explain this in idiot terms? Something about some things are never actually going to get to us because they're too far away, and that represents the boundries of our reachable universe?

~Will

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (4, Informative)

Propagandhi (570791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554394)

The observable universe is the total volume of the universe from which light could have reached us since the beginning of said universe (the big bang or whatever).

In other words, as you get farther away from our point of observation (Earth and the area immediately around it) you eventually reach a point in space which is so far from us that light could not have reached us. Assuming that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, this sphere would include everything that could have possibly affected us since the beginning of the universe. Ugh. I hope that makes sense, and I hope I didn't screw that up.

As usual Wikipedia has more information: Cosmic Light Horizon [wikipedia.org] and Obxervable Universe [wikipedia.org]

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (1, Interesting)

zerocool^ (112121) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554407)

Ok, so, according to wikipedia, if something happened in the universe 78 billion light years away, it would just now be reaching earth, and if it happened 79 billion light years away from earth, we wouldn't know about it yet.

And then, it's argued that everything beyond this horizon doesn't exist? So, the universe (according to our understanding) is a constantly growing sphere with earth in the center?

It just seems wierd. I mean, I know that scientifically, if you can't observe something, for your given system, that thing doesn't exist. However, if you drove your Heart of Gold, or USS Enterprise, or whatever, to 78 billion light years from earth, and then went 10 feet further, the Universe is still there...

Wierd.

Thanks for the article links, too.

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (3, Informative)

Propagandhi (570791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554438)

So, the universe (according to our understanding) is a constantly growing sphere with earth in the center?

No, no. That's the key difference between the observable universe and the actual universe itself. The observable universe is just the part of the universe we can actually see/be directly affected* by.

Sorry, I think I left a few "observables" out of my original reply. You're absolutely right, there's still a universe beyond the observable universe. Problem is, by the time you get to that part of the universe it will have become part of the observable universe (because you can't go faster than the speed of light).

Important note: as you move your theoretically observable universe changes. So the observable universe for your hypothetical Enterprise would be different from ours, as it would be able to see light which had not reached Earth.

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (0)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554566)

According to Big bang theory space itself, which is what you can drive the USS Enterprise through, sprouted from the originating singularity, along with the other stuff in the universe. Now to us, especially without instrumentation, space is perceived as uniform and 3 dimensional, basically as far as you can see.

However, we are easily fooled creatures. We may believe that space grows at approximately the speed of light in all directions, if inflation never occurred. Then the Enterprise can go to any point in the space but never reach the boundary since it is moving at light speed away from the centre. If the Enterprise turned on its warp drive though, it would find that it may run out of space to move in just like a train on a track reaching the end of the track.

But space is really what? Who can really know? We are inside. It may be nothing more than a fixed volume inside a larger universe and everything inside is just shrinking and giving us the illusion that space itself is growing.

In many ways we see fractals in nature - self similarity at smaller and smaller scales. Perhaps we can see the structure of the universe in a local phenomenon. Do we see things actually shrinking anywhere? We see objects under construction or growth where the components maintain their size while the overall dimension increases. But now we have computer components where data densities and circuits are shrinking albeit from generation to generation while the outside casing hardly changes.

Space itself emerging from the big bang singularlty seems really counterintuitive to me. It's plausible but not really sensible. After all it's very natural for space to just exist without bound. Yet quantum mechanics suggests that at small scales matter can appear and disappear momentarily, but this theory is considered only to be applicable inside the space that we are in, and no theories are assumed for the space outside our space.

One addition (or, rather, subtraction) (2, Interesting)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554486)

Light travels at C in a perfect vaccuum, but the early Universe was quite definitely more crowded than it is today. In consequence, although C would have been the same (the speed of light in a vaccuum is the speed of light in a vaccuum, no mater what space is doing), light itself would have travelled fractionally slower because it had a denser medium to travel through.


In consequence, although the absolute upper limit of the observable Universe is C * (age of Universe), the actual upper limit must be lower than this - though probably not by very much.


In fact, when very early structures formed, the density was still quite significant. The boundary of the observable Universe, then, can't be uniform but will resemble something closer to rather lumpy rice pudding.

Re:NOVA ran a program on gamma ray bursts... (5, Informative)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554478)

Here's the simple answer:

About 13.5 billion light years ago, the universe changed from being opaque to photons to being transparent (an event inappropriately called "recombination"). No photon emitted earlier than this time could reach us, so we cannot observe further than about 13.5 billion light years away. (The photons emitted at that time are the cosmic microwave background.) So the observable universe is 13.5 billion light years in radius. A billion years from now, it will be 14.5 billion light years in radius.

However, it gets more complicated: the universe is expanding, so the space that photon travelled through has got bigger in the meantime.

Imagine two points in the universe. Because the universe is expanding, the distance between them is increasing with time. The rate at which the distance increases is a velocity (which you can think of as causing the red shift of distant galaxies.) Hubble's law says this velocity is proportional to the distance between them. If they are sufficiently distant, the relative velocity is greater than the speed of light.

So (for example) imagine this is twice the speed of light. A photon emitted from one point travels towards the other. After one year, it has travelled one light-year, but the points have got two light-years further apart - clearly it will never arrive. These two points are not in each other's observable universes. The edge of our observable universe are the points which have a recession velocity equal to the speed of light.

The discussion above assumes no acceleration. Of course, astronomers from Hubble onwards knew there would be acceleration, but it wasn't until the mid 1990s that we could measure it.

It turns out, contrary to general expectation, that the expansion of the universe is now accelerating. This means that as time goes on, points don't have to be so far apart before their recession velocity exceeds the speed of light, so in a sense the observable universe is getting smaller. (In the sense that points that were within our observable universe in the past are no longer so. But remember that the points are always getting further apart - the radius of the obserable universe is increasing linearly with time.)

I am an ex-astronomer, not a cosmologist. There may be subtle errors in the above, but I hope not.

An honest question... (2, Interesting)

SpectreBlofeld (886224) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554184)

How do we know the universe is 13.7 billion years old? It was recently discovered that the universe's expansion is accelerating as time goes by. Assuming this change in acceleration has been the case all along, doesn't that really fudge with the numbers we used to estimate the universe's age?

Re:An honest question... (5, Informative)

Peyna (14792) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554211)

How do we know the universe is 13.7 billion years old? It was recently discovered that the universe's expansion is accelerating as time goes by. Assuming this change in acceleration has been the case all along, doesn't that really fudge with the numbers we used to estimate the universe's age?

There are many ways to estimate the age of the universe, not all of which involve calculating the expansion of the universe.

http://www.astro.ucla.edu/~wright/age.html [ucla.edu]

Re:An honest question... (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554264)

Ned Wright's cosmology page you linked to is one of the best sources of information out there for cosmology at a variety of levels. Highly recommended.

The quoted age estimate in the original post takes into consideration the acceleration, rest assured.

Re:An honest question... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554298)

Correct. For instance, the easiest way is to just cut the universe in half and count the rings.

Re:An honest question... (1)

Shimmer (3036) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554314)

Hah! Now that's actually funny.

Re:An honest question... (0, Redundant)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554522)

There are many ways to estimate the age of the universe, not all of which involve calculating the expansion of the universe.

One way is to cut through it and then count the rings.

Seems fishy (0)

James_Aguilar (890772) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554477)

Let's guess that that star and ours were moving away from eachother at c for the .7 billion years since the star collapsed. That would mean that we would have a 1.4 billion light year advantage over the light itself. That would mean that our average velocity over the time since must have been .714*c!

That doesn't seem at all right, and on top of that it would seem silly to make the assumption I initially made anyhow. Perhaps there is just something that I don't understand about light and how it moves. Or these people are just wrong (I'm putting my money on the latter -- the news people, that is, because this article is probably completely incorrect!).

Stop that God (-1, Flamebait)

kongit (758125) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554185)

Lighting farts is bad.

Slashdot is late again (5, Funny)

No Salvation (914727) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554194)

Wow, Slashdot really dropped the ball on this one, this news is 13 billion years old.

Re:Slashdot is late again (2, Funny)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554229)

I predict that if the explosion is pulsating, then it's likely we'll see pulsating dupe stories about it too. Go ahead, mod me offtopic, but I'll have the last laugh when this story shows up again tomorrow.

Re:Slashdot is late again (2, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554425)

It won't be a dupe, it will be the effect of gravitational lensing [berkeley.edu] .

You Are Here (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554199)

I like to cruise around in Celestia [celestiamotherlode.net] , but I can't find models on a scale larger than galaxies. The "sky show" I saw at the Hayden Planetarium (or whatever they call it now, "Rose" something) last year, a "zoom out" from NYC to "the biggest picture" of the whole Universe, looked a lot like a Celestia animation. Is there some kind of model I can run on my Linux machine to cruise the *whole* universe? To look at those several degrees of "superstructures" surrounding us, without that annoying 30min time limit, or Tom Hanks' annoying voice?

Re:You Are Here (2, Interesting)

dpp (585742) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554263)

The software you saw at the Hayden might have been something to do with Partiview [haydenplanetarium.org] :

Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554212)

If the distant explosions are caused by aliens, like that Slashdot article the other week claimed? When you think about it though, if it is possible to blow up a solar system, such as in the Star Trek 7 movie, then perhaps this is how we're going to find out we're not alone in the Universe - by observing our neighbours knock down a distant tree [proverbially].

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (3, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554271)

If the distant explosions are caused by aliens

Since they seem to go back to the time that the universe was only 1 billion years old, that is fairly unlikely. Stars back then were too immature to produce enough complex elements thought needed by life. It takes several birth-death cycles for stars to produce non-simple elements, such as carbon.

Further, even if they did arise that early, having the Cosmic Nuke back then would almost certainly have resulted in more noticable changes. One could argue that they blew themselves up, but gamma bursts seem fairly uniform over time and space. Weapons technology growth and use tends not to be uniform, based on earth history.

Finally, they don't seem clustered (repeating in same vacinity). Most wars produce clusters of weapon usage, near the front lines. These so far seem random.
         

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (2, Insightful)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554307)

You're probably right about not being enough complex elements, unless we're wrong about how matter is organized, or pops into our universe.

"Most wars produce clusters of weapon usage, near the front lines. These so far seem random."
Unless the physics of the universe only permit solar destruction in a particular way, and so each advanced species always will eventually come to the same conclusion, and possibly same end. Or the star destroying alien race(s) have almost always existed, and can travel vast distances instantly, and it just takes them a few thousand years here and there to get mad enough or bored enough that they want to smoke a few stars.

But this is of course just my imagination running wild. It's entirely more likely that nature itself is just acting out, much like lightning storms on earth: Flashy, loud, and scary.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554538)

and it just takes them a few thousand years here and there to get mad enough or bored enough that they want to smoke a few stars.

I smoke two stars in the morning.
I smoke two stars at night.
I smoke two stars in the afternoon, it makes me feel alright
I smoke two stars in time of peace, and two in time of war
I smoke two stars before I smoke two stars,
And then I smoke two more ...

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

flyingsquid (813711) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554359)

It's an interesting concept though: look for aliens by trying to see them blow the shit out of each other.

I mean, what would be the effects of a nuclear war, for instance? Given that we came pretty close to lobbing missiles at each other over Cuba, you'd expect that a reasonable number of civilizations would engage in nuclear exchanges. Is clusters of hydrogen bombs going off simultaneously going to be something we could pick up from hundreds of light years away? Of course, such events would be brief... and probably unlikely to repeat themselves in any location.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554485)

Obviously any planet nuked to death would have an easily seen radioactive green, or possibly yellow glow to it. Oh wait, that's cartoon physics I'm thinking of, never mind.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554564)

Obviously any planet nuked to death would have an easily seen radioactive green, or possibly yellow glow to it. Oh wait, that's cartoon physics I'm thinking of, never mind.

What the hell kind of cartoons did you watch as a kid? :-)

Even the Coyote never nuked the road-runner that I remember.
       

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554496)

I mean, what would be the effects of a nuclear war, for instance?

It'd sting a bit at first...

There would be next to nothing detectable at astronomical distances from a nuclear war, and the inevitable fall of the (un)civilisations which participated would be likely to prevent them being involved in any sort of astronomy for a long time afterwards.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554556)

Is clusters of hydrogen bombs going off simultaneously going to be something we could pick up from hundreds of light years away?

I suspect it would be nearly indistinquishable from big asteroid/comet entries. Maybe something could be detected, but not a strong enough signal to know if it is natural or artificial.
       

Re:Wouldn't it be somewhat worrisome ... (1)

athomascr (851385) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554328)

I'd be a bit concerned, though, if bursts came in a repeated sequences of short and long bursts like dah-dit-dah-dah.

I can see SETI deciphering it now: "... have to call you back, running out of stars."

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

nihilogos (87025) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554433)

13 billion years ago there wouldn't have been any aliens. Unless they were based on hydrogen and helium, which doesn't seem very likely. But hell, it's probably not too much of a stretch for star trek.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554501)

Actually, there seem to be quite a high abundance of elements seen in quasars at these high redshifts. It's probably from very rapid evolution of many generations of stars very quickly in the cores of the first massive galaxies. The lifespan of a massive type O star is only a million years, and a billion years is plenty of time. There are some other subtle issues, but the high-redshift quasars show emission lines indicative of plenty of metals.

Having said all that, the environments in which the elemental abundances grow so quickly would also probably be inimicable to all life for quite some time, so I agree with the main point.

Re:Wouldn't it be interesting.. (1)

Leomania (137289) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554540)

If the distant explosions are caused by aliens

It was caused by the Vogons. I read about it in the meeting minutes of a planetary planning meeting somewhere in around Alpha Centauri awhile back.

Blackhole Question... (0)

Nerd Systems (912027) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554219)

I read on here how this star explosion resulted in a black hole, yet am confused by this. If this massive gamma-ray burst resulted in a black hole, then how did the light escape enough to reach us here on earth, 13 billion light years away?

I would love to see some pictures or even video of this event, to see just exactly what a super-massive gamma-ray burst looks like as well... am sure it might be spectacular...

Another question comes to mind, what if Earth and the entire Milky Way Galaxy itself, was actually trapped inside of a giant blackhole???

I know that probably because of the massive energy released by this gamma-ray burst, that it was able to escape, or was the black hole not created as of the time of explosion?

Also, if a black hole was created at explosion, was this even more massive then we can see, yet the black hole swallowed up a majority of the explosion and what we see, is just a small glimpse of it?

Questions we may never find the answer to...

Re:Blackhole Question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554261)

When a star collapses like that, a enourmous heat and pressure cause the bursts of radiation. It takes time for a star to collapse, so all the while it emits.

Even when the star finally collapses, only light within the event horizon (i.e. the schwatzchild radius) will be unable to escape.

Re:Blackhole Question... (1)

qbwiz (87077) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554265)

The burst emitted the light before the black hole collapsed. If any was created after the black hole was created, it was created in the area outside of the event horizon, so it could escape. No light can escape from inside a black hole, no matter how much energy it has.

If the entire galaxy was trapped inside a black hole, then we would be crushed into a point.

Re:Blackhole Question... (1)

centauri (217890) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554489)

If the entire galaxy was trapped inside a black hole, then we would be crushed into a point.

Though I've heard that if there were a black hole as large as the universe, it would have a density roughly equal to that of... the universe. Think about it.

Re:Blackhole Question... (1)

bombshelter13 (786671) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554548)

If you think about it for a second, it makes no sense. If you crushed the entire universe to a point, that would by definition change it's density.

Re:Blackhole Question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554365)

If this massive gamma-ray burst resulted in a black hole, then how did the light escape enough to reach us here on earth, 13 billion light years away?

IIRC, a dying star is comprised of layers. The innermost core is comprised of exhausted nuclear fuel. That is surrounded by layers of lighter and lighter substances that have yet to fully fuse.

When the exhausted core suddenly collapses into a neutron star or black hole, all of the outer layers filled with still-active nuclear fuel promptly shift inward. This rapidly compresses them, and boom, they instantly fuse. This creates an enormous explosion that blows the outer layers of the star apart before they even reach the event horizon of the new black hole, and much of the total fusion energy of the outer layers' material is released to space in a matter of seconds.

Re:Blackhole Question... (4, Informative)

erichill (583191) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554371)

If this massive gamma-ray burst resulted in a black hole, then how did the light escape enough to reach us here on earth, 13 billion light years away?

Someone or another asks something like this everytime anything related to black holes comes up on Slashdot.

The radiation emitted from black hole related events, such as quasars, gamma ray bursts, and Hawking radiation, for that matter, comes from processes near-sometimes very near, but still OUTSIDE, the event horizon. As long as you're outside the horizon, there are trajectories that escape.

As for,

Also, if a black hole was created at explosion, was this even more massive then we can see, yet the black hole swallowed up a majority of the explosion and what we see, is just a small glimpse of it?

According to the literature on very massive stars, there as mass ranges that results in the star collapsing completely into a black hole such that no significant amount of matter or radiation gets away at all.

Check out How Massive Single Stars End their Life [arxiv.org] . Figure 1 is particularly enlightening. It's a pretty math-free article, so I think anyone who's generally interested in this stuff can follow it, maybe with a bit of help from Wikipedia and Science World. [wolfram.com]

Re:Blackhole Question... (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554386)

its the act of the collapse that (likely) causes these bursts. once it is collapsed, the only evidence we have of black holes is their gravitational effects on visable objects, and the x-ray radiation that results from them siphoning gases and other matter from neighboring stars at such speeds that the friction creates massive amounts of radiation around the hole. imagine if your toilet was so powerful that it made the swirling water emit high-energy radition simply from rubbing that fast.

Re:Blackhole Question... (3, Interesting)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554541)

I Am Not an Astronomer/Cosmologist

"If this massive gamma-ray burst resulted in a black hole, then how did the light escape enough to reach us here on earth,"

Only stuff inside the event horizon after a star has collapsed that far gets trapped. The bits of the implosion/explosion outside that radius gets out. Newton dictates that whatever pushes in against the core of a star to collapse it into a black hole also pushes the pusher in the opposite direction.

"I would love to see some pictures or even video of this event,"

A new pinpoint of light appears, then goes away after 3 minutes (assuming you can see gamma rays). Even the most powerful telescopes looking at Alpha Centauri only sees a pinpoint of light. They can get brighter or dimmer, but never "larger."

"Another question comes to mind, what if Earth and the entire Milky Way Galaxy itself, was actually trapped inside of a giant blackhole???"

Things closer to the center wouldn't be visible to us, because the light would be going the other way. Things farther away than us would only be visible as high-energy stuff, with other galaxies probably blue-shifted well into the gamma radiation range of the EM spectrum. Laterally, we might be able to see ourselves with powerful enough telescopes.

"yet the black hole swallowed up a majority of the explosion and what we see, is just a small glimpse of it?"

It's an all-too-big part of it. If the gamma ray burst that we saw was in our galaxy and still pointed at us, we'd be dead.

I think Wyoming tried... (3, Interesting)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554224)

I *think* we observed, or tried to observe, this burst from our local observatory WIRO. At its high redshift, we probably just got limits with the optical camera that was on the telescope. I'll have to check with my student Cassandra Paul who was on and targeted a burst last week. They released some kind of circular.

As a quasar guy, I'm excited about this result but happy a quasar still holds the redshift record.

Prediction (1)

Markus Registrada (642224) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554403)

The source will turn out to be (angularly speaking) right next to a nearby Seyfert galaxy that has an improbable number of other particularly bright quasars clustered around it. The other quasars' redshifts will be found to decrease with angular distance from the galaxy.

Re:I think Wyoming tried... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554421)

Does your student know you blab her name out on the Internet and disclose where she works and when she works there?

If you think I'm being too harsh, see how she reacts when you tell her you did.

Re:I think Wyoming tried... (2, Informative)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554463)

What's your problem? Most observatories post public schedules with the times observers will be there, what instruments they're using, etc. When the papers are published, the dates and locations of the observations are recorded, and often the observers are noted (e.g., with footnotes about who was the visiting astronomer at Kitt Peak). There was already a circular that went out last week about these observations with her name on it, specifying exactly when and where she and another observer obtained the data. She was THRILLED to have her name on this.

I don't think you have a good idea about how this stuff works. If you're some sort of weird astronomer stalker local to Wyoming, let us know. We've never had a problem at our observatory other than the occasional minor accident or mountain lion, and no one is ever up there alone. The people here are few and far between, usually friendly, and usually armed.

Where are you from, because you're being weirdly paranoid?

Re:I think Wyoming tried... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554558)

The point is, is that it is a not particularly smart to revel personal information on high traffic websites. Don't be a fuckwit and post other people's personal info.

Maybe I can drop by 1161 Apache Dr and we can talk about it. Satellite photos show a nice big park within a block or two of your home. Must be a nice place to take a walk, have a picnic, perhaps hide a body. Then just hop on 30 to US80 and head out of town...

Never even been to Laramie.

Re:I think Wyoming tried... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554467)

Hard to be sure, but she looks hot:

http://physics.uwyo.edu/~cassandra/ [uwyo.edu]

Give her a call at: 307-766-3162

It's not quasar surgery people!

Suggest this post and parent get modded down!!! (0, Offtopic)

mbrother (739193) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554536)

Well, that's pretty obnoxious. Her picture and number are publically available on the internet, yes. So are mine. She's had her website up all of two days. Frankly, she'd probably be flattered you called her "hot" but putting her phone number here is crossing the line, don't you think? If you're trying to make the point that there are assholes in the world who abuse the internet, you have, and please pay your membership fee on the way out. Look, I'm proud of Cassandra and going to give her due credit for her professional activities. That's what advisors do. I can't protect her, or myself, from stalkers unless they show themselves.

Old news (2, Funny)

1337 man of steel (904285) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554225)

from 13 billion light years away

If my physics class serves me correct, that makes this event happening around 13 billion years ago.

Which ends up around Sept6, 12999997995 BC.

Considering that light years = amount of distance light travels in one year, which is alot.

Re:Old news (1)

ryanjensen (741218) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554319)

So, this happened 13 billion light years away, and therefore 13 billion years ago (assuming that gamma rays travel at the speed of light in a vacuum). How is it that we arrived at this point, here on earth, to observe this event *13 billion years* ahead of the light from the event? Especially if the universe itself is only between 13-15 billion years old?

Is the earth, our solar system, and the Milky Way travelling faster than the light from the Big Bang, then slowing down enough for light from this event to catch up? Or did this event not happen 13 billion years in *our* past, but just in the *general* past?

Gah! Confusing!

Re:Old news (2, Interesting)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554344)

The big bang (I don't believe it myself!) happened 'everywhere' - not just at one point in space. That's the theory anyway.

Re:Old news (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554565)

No, special relativity says that it happened 2005-09-06, and the gamma ray burster's calendar is 13 billion years slow.

In other news... (2, Funny)

Chairboy (88841) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554228)

In other news... HULK SMASH!

Grammar Whore (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554296)

ahem. Farthest Gamma-Ray... Farthest . 'Further' is a definition of degree. 'Farther' is a measure of distance.

Re:Grammar Whore (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554406)

Please! I don't want to talk about grammar any farther.

Marvin says: (1)

Geak (790376) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554329)

You earthlings have annoyed me for the last time. Feel the wrath of my ACME disintegrator ray. Oops, I missed and hit the sun.

Everyone knows this is... (2, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554331)

...just Sun's Bold New Ad Campaign.

Stupid Sun (2, Funny)

Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554354)

I just read this article:

Sun's Bold New Ad Campaign!

Why post it twice? We already know they're trying to get our attention. Heck, they're even running ads on tv. Although now it makes sense now why Sun's Ad campaign was refused --

"This is a gamma ray burst! We can't air this! We'll kill all our viewers!"

Stupid McNealy. He'll kill us all.

SWIFT explained in song (2, Funny)

TheLoneDanger (611268) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554364)

Here's SWIFT explained through a song [astrocappella.com] by some astronomers who also sing a capella. Much more entertaining than RTFA.

I don't understand how this works.Can anyone help? (1)

tabbser (560130) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554454)

I have trouble with these types of statements. 13 billion lightyears away, the universe is not much older than that, at around 13.7. I understand that the further out you look the further back in time you are looking. If this exploded 13 billion years ago, and we've been exanding for 13.7 and we're just seeing it today, some 13 billion years later ... how come it took so long for us to see it ? Is it really travelling that fast away from us ? What 'speed' would that be ? It would seem to indicate a fantastically fast expansion speed to me, is this right ? I'm probably missing something really obvious, but to me I don't seem to be able to grasp that fundementally simple concept.

rast reaction, but how? (1)

tloh (451585) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554458)

from the article:

"Swift detected the burst and relayed its coordinates within minutes to scientists around the world. Reichart's team discovered the afterglow using the Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research (SOAR) telescope atop Cerro Pachon, Chile."

There just happened by chance to be a deep space optical telescope available for chasing after this event? I've always thought one needed to book time at observatories due to the high ratio of astronomers to available telescopes. How is it they can just take over an expensive instrument like this? What happens to anyone unfortunate enough to have reserved an observation run during this event?

Re:rast reaction, but how? (3, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554571)

SWIFT is a space-based telescope designed specifically to chase gamma-ray bursts. It has amazing thrusters, capable of spinning the telescope faster than anything else we have in space.


My understanding is there's a low-res, very wide angle gamma-ray detector that they can use to scan vast sections of the sky. If the computers see anything interesting, they spin the probe to get a better look. If it's still a strong candidate, it then notifies anything and everything on Earth that is interested in such events.


The problem used to be that, precisely because they had to book telescopes and because telescopes are rather unwieldy, even if they saw something, it was too late to get an accurate enough fix to see what the cause was.


SWIFT was designed to solve this problem. In fact, it has discovered far more bursts than the astronomers were expecting and it started detecting them far sooner. (They got half-drowned in notifications, during the test and burn-in phase.)


So far, it has been an outstanding success - second only to Hubble, in the sense that Hubble generates better pics for the press and the average space geek. As far as I know, SWIFT was not designed to really record much in the way of actual hard data (other than location), it was more an early-warning system for giant space explosions. That is partly how it works so fast, but with the pitfall that it means that you HAVE to have additional telescopes available, if it does detect something.

Re:rast reaction, but how? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554591)

SOAR appears to be still in a commissioning phase [noao.edu] , so it would be easier to get time on the telescope.

Other ways to get fast time on a telescope: queue scheduling [noao.edu] ; calling a friend who has time that night; just happening to be there at the right time.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (3, Funny)

renrutal (872592) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554464)

Earthlings, say cheese! *Flash* Mr. Alien, your film developing estimated time: 26 billions years and 1 hour.

Me mash puny scientists... (1)

TAGspawn (910359) | more than 8 years ago | (#13554527)

Feel free to launch me at that. If it worked on Bruce Banner, then I've got a shot! What? It was a comic? Noooooooo!

Lawsuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13554588)

"The most distant explosion ever detected occurred deep deep deep in the constellation Pisces. The explosion -- a gamma-ray burst, likely from a very early star explosion -- occurred nearly 13 billion years ago, when the Universe was about 6% its current age."

Someones horoscope is out of wack; I know someone in Russia is going to have a pending lawsuit on foreign body.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...