Narrator: This is Science Today. NASA's Ulysses spacecraft recently detected the afterglow of the most distant gamma ray burst ever observed. Research physicist Kevin Hurley of the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory, was the principal investigator of this experiment. Hurley says this gamma ray burst originated from a gigantic dying star more than 30 times larger than the sun, which exploded 11 billion years ago.
Hurley:The farther back you can look, the more interesting it gets because the closer we're getting to the Big Bang. So not only are we learning about what went on in terms of the star formation in these early galaxies, but we're also learning what the early universe was like outside of those galaxies between us and the galaxies.
Narrator: If these powerful explosions went off in our own galaxy fairly close, it would be the end of civilization on Earth.
Hurley: So it's one more thing that you have to think about when you think about life evolving and in distant galaxies. Were solar systems subjected to a gamma ray burst? Used to be all you had to worry about was comet impacts and asteroid impacts, but now there's something else. So these are the sorts of things you learn when you study these distant objects.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.