ESO’s Very Large Telescope has shown something that scientists concluded is the signature of the explosion of the object furthest away from Earth we have found so far, a redshift of 8.2; it’s estimated that the explosion took place more than 13 billion years ago (!!), just 600 million years after the Big Bang.

They found it using a technology that “spotted” a faint gamma ray burst just Thursday. Gamma ray bursts are very intense flashes of gamma rays that last from a split second to several minutes and release huge amounts of energy in very short times, making them the most powerful events we know so far; they’re mostly associated with the explosion of massive stars that collapse into black holes.

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“We find that the light coming from the explosion has been stretched, or redshifted, considerably by the expansion of the Universe”, says Nial Tanvir, the leader of the team who made the VLT observations. “With a redshift of 8.2 this is the most remote gamma-ray burst ever detected, and also the most distant object ever discovered — by some way.”

“This discovery proves the importance of gamma-ray bursts in probing the most distant parts of the Universe”, says Tanvir. “We can now be confident that even more remote bursts will be found in the future, which will open a window to studying the very first stars and the ultimate end of the Dark Age of the Universe.”

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