New York: In what could provide new insight into the structure of the early universe, light from the enormous explosion of a star more than 12 billion years ago - shortly after the Big Bang - was recently seen reaching earth.
Known as a gamma-ray burst, light from the rare, high-energy explosion travelled for 12.1 billion years before it was detected and observed by a telescope Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) IIIb.
Armed with images of the burst, astronomers can analyse the observational data to draw further conclusions about the structure of the early universe.
"Observing gamma-ray bursts is important for gaining information about the early universe," said Robert Kehoe, a physics professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in the US.
At the time of this gamma-ray burst's explosion, the universe looked vastly different than it does now.
"It was an early stage of galaxy formation. There were not heavy elements to make earth-like planets. So this is a glimpse at the early universe," Kehoe added.
Gamma-ray bursts are believed to be the catastrophic collapse of a star at the end of its life.
"As NASA points out, gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe since the Big Bang," said Farley Ferrante from SMU.
"These bursts release more energy in 10 seconds than our earth's sun during its entire expected lifespan of 10 billion years," Ferrante added.