A stellar day. Wednesday, March 19, 2008
One of them (080319B) was so bright as to be visible to the naked eye, albeit briefly, even considering that at a redshift of 0.937 it is about eight billion light years distant. With an apparent magnitude of about 5, it was almost as bright as Uranus: now that is one bright-ass 8-billion-year-old exploding star.
As an aside, don't forget to thank your favorite astronomer today for doing absolutely necessary and cutting-edge work. Getting a machine like Swift into space and then automating it well enough to have it find bursts like this without any human intervention is an incredible achievement. As Gabe says:
Transient astronomy is badass.
And really hard.
Update 03/30/08: here's the Wikipedia page on GRB 080319B, which highlights that this burst was even more remarkable than I realized; it set a record for the furthest object ever visible by naked eye. I say goddamn.