NASA images brightest gamma-ray burst ever

Back on April 17, we reported on gamma-ray burst GRB 111209A, which was the longest of three unusually long bursts that were first detected back in 2010. Gamma-ray bursts typically only last a few seconds, but these three – and 111209A in particular – lasted into a span of hours, confounding scientists, who eventually identified the phenomenon as being the result of a supergiant star's death. All three of those bursts have been trumped by GRB 130427A.

Late last month, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and Swift Space Telescope both imaged the brightest, most powerful GRB ever spotted. Like the others mentioned, this gamma-ray burst was the result of a dying star, this particular one located 3.6-billion light-years from our planet. The scientists then took the images – one of which is featured above – and turned them into a video.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center scientist Julie McEnery said about the images: "We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright. The GRB lasted so long that a record number of telescopes on the ground were able to catch it while space-based observations were still ongoing."

Of all the gamma-ray bursts that have been detected, GRB 130427A turned out to be the longest that has ever. In addition, it also earned the title of most-powerful (by a factor of three) GRB the Large Area Telescope has ever imaged. The recording of the event started just 60 seconds after the GRB began, and has prompted a hunt for an accompanying supernova.