This is the week of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Boston, bringing with it a spike in news of near space, far space, and places in between.
Here is a sampling of stories on one heavily covered piece of news, filed by reporters there or following things via the web, teleconference, and other remote means. Below that is another piece of space news that broke at about the same time, but not at AAS.
1) Farthest explosion ever seen. NASA’s Swift gamma ray satellite spotted it more than two years ago. A US-UK team now publishes analysis of the event, id’d as a gamma ray burst unleashed by the collapse and simultaneous supernova explosion of a massive star, concluding it occurred 13.14 billion years ago – about five hundred million years after the universe is believed to have formed and the farthest and earliest such thing so far recorded (by now, so long after it occurred, whatever remnant remains has moved even farther away than 13.14 b light years – maybe ten time farther). This breaks the earlier, oldest-farthest record by about a 100 million years. It also, as news stories relate, provides a calibration point for models of how fast, and just plain how, the first stars formed. The analysis took awhile because weather on Earth cut short efforts to get a good spectrum of the afterglow.
- USA Today – Elizabeth Weise: Cosmic explosion may be most distant object in Universe;
- BBC – Jonathan Amos: Cosmic distance record ‘broken’; If you read just one story to see what this is all about in plain, news-style English, this is a good choice. It has population III stars, the epoch of reionization, and other far-off things for context. (Amos also hints that the universe has an edge – but he calls it the observable edge and that takes the, uh, edge off any grimace at the term).
- Universe Today – Tammy Plotner: Gamma Ray Burst 090429B… Far Out! ;
- AP – Rahael G. Satter: Farthest-ever explosion found at edge of cosmos?
- Voice of America – Jessica Berman: Astronomers Detect Most Distant Object in Universe ;
- Discover Mag./ Bad Astronomy blog – Phil Plait : Most distant object ever seen … maybe ; Usual spicy stuff from Dr. Astronomer – with such lines as “this takes a wee bit o’explaining … after all, it’s an explosion so big it’ll crush your mind into dust.” He’s also among the few to make emphatic the iffy, error bar stuff that fuzzes almost any new discovery’s detail. But it looks very, very likely this is as advertised, he explains.
- Space.com – Clara Moskowitz: Huge space Explosion Is Farthest Thing Ever Seen ;
- ABC (Australia) Stuart Gary: Huge explosion most distant ever seen;
- AlJazeera – Astronomers claim star is universe’s oldest: The good-natured anchor, a former CNN man (I think) clearly knows nothing at all about astronomy – but that’s okay. The lead author of the paper answers his questions.
- Astronomy Now – Emily Baldwin: Extending the edge of the observable universe ;
- Wired – Duncan Geere: 13.1 billion years ago, on the edge of the Universe, a star exploded ; Rather brief story, not very detailed. Worth tracking just to provide a chance for a tedious correction to the hed, which reporter Geere may well not have written. The universe has no edge. The signal comes from near the limit of what we here can see, but it was and is as central as we are.
2) Wet Moon: One may say it didn’t do much, but never say the Apollo program did no serious science. The moon rocks and dust and grit the astronauts fetched back to Earth are still yielding important conclusions – such as that the interior of our moon, once thought drier than the Sahara at noon, is as wet in places as the Earth’s upper mantle. This broke in Science, independently of the AAS meeting where interest tends to focus far beyond the solar system.
- NYTimes – Kenneth Chang: Evidence of Water Beneath Moon’s Stony Face ; Gets the reader inside the lab, examining the soil grain by grain, scrutinizing olivine crystals and finding a glassy, ah ha moment. The result is confusion over the lunar past.
- Discovery News – Irene Klotz ; Inner Moon As Wet as Earth;
- Astronomy Now – Emily Baldwin: The Moon gets wetter ;
- Bloomberg – Elizabeth Lopatto: Moon Has More Water Than Previously Thought in Challenge to View of Origin ;
- San Francisco Chronicle – David Perlman: NASA study of moon soil reveals plentiful water ;
- Independent (UK) Steve Connor: Water in the Sea of Tranquility? Oh yes there is … ; OK, but more interesting is an accompanying muser on mythology, Earth, Moon, Sun, etc: Earth-Shattering ; It’s a pastiche of moon thoughts, but seems to arise from a misapprehension. The idea of the Moon as offspring of Earth, via ancient collision, is decades old. The new findings do not introduce the theory but, more, complicate and partly confound it.
- Toronto Globe and Mail – Oliver Moore: Moon has more water than believed ;
- The Australian – Leigh Dayton: Water find may open up moon’s resources ;
- AFC : Moon may have more water than believed: study;
This article was originally published on AAS etc space news: A distant blast, and water in the farthest place anybody has been