The 12.5 billion-year-old ‘GRB 140311A’ explosion has been captured by WA scientists. The 12.5 billion-year-old ‘GRB 140311A’ explosion has been captured by WA scientists.
This is the 12.5 billion-year-old ‘GRB 140311A’ explosion captured by WA scientists.
A West Australian telescope has captured images of a far away star blowing up about 12.5 billion years ago.
Professor David Coward told WAtoday爱上海同城论坛m.au that the recording of the event, known as a gamma ray burst, was significant as he believed it to be the oldest image of its kind to be captured.
“When you look at space, you look back in time,” he said.
The Zadko Telescope, located in Gingin and operated by the University of Western Australia’s School of Physics which operates robotically, is designed to capture flashes in the sky.
It received an alert from a NASA satellite that had been orbiting at about 5.30am on Wednesday that prompted the telescope into action.
Within less than a minute of receiving the alert the telescope began recording images of the sky where the satellite had been pointing when it picked up the light.
Professor Coward said there had only been a short space of time where conditions would allow the activity to be captured.
“With only 18 minutes before daylight, the pressure was on,” he said.
“But out of the blackness, with only minutes to spare, emerged a glowing mysterious source that continued to brighten.
“This was tantalising evidence of a massive star that was undergoing the cataclysmic death throws before collapsing to a black hole.
“Ironically, although appearing faint in the image, the explosion was so bright it totally outshone its host galaxy, which could not even be detected in the images.”
Professor Coward said lucky timing allowed the Zadko telescope to capture the event at its brightest.
The event was given the name GRB 140311A.
Professor Coward said while staff at the university initially had no idea how far away the explosion had occurred, with the help of information from telescopes worldwide, they had since been able to measure the distance to the event.
“It turned out to be so far away, the light from the explosion took 12.5 billion years to reach Earth,” he said.
“The explosion occurred when the Universe was only a small fraction of its present size.”
He said this could be the oldest event captured by Australian scientists.
“The images of the explosion is analogous to lighting a candle in a dark room filled with treasures from the past, and quickly taking photos before the candle goes out.
“This kind of science is like cosmic archaeology.”
An international team, consisting of researchers in Australia, France and China, are using the data to understand these explosions and the early Universe.
“We’ll combine data with others to try to begin to explain how and why this occurred,” he said. Follow WAtoday on Twitter