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Astronomers may have detected the most distant and ancient object ever seen, a massive explosion that lit up the early universe soon after its birth. When the blast, known as a gamma ray burst (GRB), detonated, the universe was less than 4 per cent of its present age and 10 per cent of its present size.
Light from the event has taken 13.14 billion light years to reach the Earth. It began its journey only about 600 million years after the Big Bang that created the cosmos. The source of the burst, designated GRB 090429B, was an exploding star which for a brief time shone a million million times more brightly than the Sun. Its fading "afterglow" was detected by the American space agency's Swift satellite in April 2009.
Two years of analysis have now shown the object to be a candidate record-breaker. British astronomer Dr Andrew Levan, from the University of Warwick, who was among the first to view the explosion, said: "The race to find distant objects stems from the desire to find and study the first stars and galaxies that formed in the universe, in the first few hundred million years after the Big Bang.