When The Universe Was Very Young

Scientists have detected gamma rays that they attribute to a massive stellar explosion 13.1 billion years ago — “only” about 660 million years after the “Big Bang.”  Their theory is that a huge star collapsed into a black hole and emitted gamma rays as a result.

This news is fascinating on two levels.  First, it is amazing that our technology has developed to the point where we can detect actions that occurred so extraordinarily long ago, when the universe was in its infancy.  Second, it is surprising that, only 660 million years after the Big Bang, a star could have coalesced out of the exploded remnants of the Big Bang, ignited into fiery life, and then collapsed into a black hole.  660 million years seems like a long time, but Wikipedia, for example, estimates that the age of our Sun is almost 4.6 billion years.  Obviously, it could blow at any minute!  I don’t want to think that tomorrow afternoon I might see a bright flash and then observe the sun’s photosphere hurtling my way at close to the speed of light.

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