1. Most Distant Gamma-ray Burst
One aspect of my research in gamma-ray astronomy involved looking for very high-energy gamma rays associated with gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). These events rank as the most energetic processes occurring in the universe. Scientists have detected thousands of GRBs since they were first discovered in the 1960s (for a description of their serendipitous discovery, see this site). The most distant GRB yet detected occured when the universe was a mere 800 million years old. This places it among the most distant objects in our universe ever observed.
2. Brightest Gamma-ray Burst
Another GRB discovered stands as the most distant object viewable with the naked eye. All the individual stars one observes when looking at the night sky inhabit our Milky Way Galaxy and therefore are no more than a hundred thousand light-years away (the diameter of the Milky Way). At 2.5 million light-years away, the Andromeda Galaxy is one of the few objects outside the Milky Way visible to the naked eye (at least for those in the northern hemisphere). The brightest GRB, designated GRB 080319B, was briefly visible to the naked eye, even though it occurred 7.5 billion years ago, more than halfway across the observable universe!
3. Earth’s Oldest Crust Material
Here on planet Earth scientists recently found the oldest known rocks. Dated at 4.28 billion years old, these rocks best the previous oldest known rocks by 300 million years. Although Earth formed 4.6 billion years ago, rocks more than three billion years old are rare because they have usually been eroded and/or recycled back into Earth’s interior via plate tectonics. These particular rocks escaped that fate and were found along the Hudson Bay in Northern Quebec.
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