eso0034 — Science Release
The Most Remote Gamma-Ray Burst
17 October 2000: Observations with telescopes at the ESO La Silla and Paranal observatories (Chile) have enabled an international team of astronomers  to measure the distance of a "gamma-ray burst", an extremely violent, cosmic explosion of still unknown physical origin. It turns out to be the most remote gamma-ray burst ever observed. The exceedingly powerful flash of light from this event was emitted when the Universe was very young, less than about 1,500 million years old, or only 10% of its present age. Travelling with the speed of light (300,000 km/sec) during 11,000 million years or more, the signal finally reached the Earth on January 31, 2000. The brightness of the exploding object was enormous, at least 1,000,000,000,000 times that of our Sun, or thousands of times that of the explosion of a single, heavy star (a "supernova"). The ESO Very Large Telescope (VLT) was also involved in trail-blazing observations of another gamma-ray burst in May 1999, c.f. ESO PR 08/99.