On September 4, scientists observed the most distant explosion in the universe. The gamma-ray burst (a really bright and powerful explosion that happens when a huge star dies and collapses in a black hole) happened 12.6 billion light-years from Earth, which means 12.6 billion years ago, just 900 million years after the birth of our universe.
If you think of it, being able to detect something that happened 12.6 billion light-years from Earth is quite something. In an article published on Scientific American, Gehrels, Piro, and Leonard describe the effect of another gamma-ray burst that was detected in January 1999:
Though just barely visible through binoculars, it turned out to be the most brilliant explosion ever witnessed by humanity. We could see it nine billion light-years away, more than halfway across the observable universe. If the event had instead taken place a few thousand light-years away, it would have been as bright as the midday sun, and it would have dosed Earth with enough radiation to kill off nearly every living thing.
A few thousand light-years away, hu? Why do I suddenly feel so small?