Astronomers have detected a cosmic object more distant than any ever seen: a gamma ray burst about 13 billion light-years from Earth. The massive, luminous burst occurred about 600 million years after the Big Bang—that is, when the universe was 4% of its current age—and only lasted for about 12 seconds. Scientists say the ancient burst allows an unprecedented view into the earliest days of the universe.
A gamma ray blast takes place when a star dies, collapsing in on itself to form a huge black hole and releasing massive amounts of energy. Two independent groups of astronomers observed the blast, which was first detected by a NASA satellite, reports National Geographic. "This is the last blank bit of the map of the universe: the time between the Big Bang and the formation of these early galaxies," said one of the astronomers.