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Image courtesy of Darach Watson (Dark Cosmology Centre, University of Copenhagen) with data from Nial Tanvir (University of Leicester) and Gerry Gilmore (University of Cambridge) and ESA.
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About this Image
The progress of the distance record for astrophysical sources.
To understand the Universe at early times we need to look further away. The bright centres of active galaxies (QSOs or quasars), galaxies, and gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the brightest sources in the Universe and allow us to see what was happening at very early times. The first distance to a GRB was only found in 1997, but since then progress has been very rapid, and a GRB, (GRB090423) is now the most distant object known, occurring only 600 million years after the Big Bang, 5% of the current age of the Universe. GRBs originate in the destruction of certain massive stars, and so show us where individual stars have lived and died. They fade very quickly after the GRB explodes, but are extremely bright at first, and so represent one of the most promising ways to explore the early Universe and the formation and destruction of the first stars.
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