Light from a star that exploded billions of years before the Earth was formed have been spotted by terrestrial astronomers, Space.com reports. The gamma-ray burst from halfway across the universe was the most distant object ever seen by the naked eye, and the brightest object ever observed by humans. The burst formed as a massive star collapsed into a black hole, briefly burning as bright as billions of stars.
NASA's Swift satellite detected the burst, which scientists say was millions of time brighter than the brightest thing ever previously recorded. "If this burst had happened in our galaxy, it would have been shining brighter than the Sun for almost a minute," said a Swift team member. The burst was one of five gamma-ray bursts detected Wednesday, which astronomers noted was the day Arthur C. Clarke died.