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Your humble host can be alternatively be found haunting these here tubes under many a different guise; I'd recommend starting your inquest at his usual place of residence. And there's always the Twitter.

A stellar day. Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Gabe, whom I always trust to always keep me up-to-date on the universe outside of my little contrived one, IM'ed to inform me that today - March 19th 2008 or 08-03-19, depending on how you write it - saw not one, two, or even three, but four gamma ray bursts observed by Swift (making today the first time in history for such a frequency).

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.