Last week, on the same day Arthur Clarke passed away, light from an object 7.5 billion light years away suddenly arrived at Earth. The light was brighter than any ever observed by astronomers. It was detected first in the form of a Gamma Ray Burst, and was so bright it was even visible briefly in normal light to the naked eye. According to NASA: “…it was 2.5 million times more luminous than the most luminous supernova ever recorded, making it the most intrinsically bright object ever observed by humans in the universe.” See Sky & Telescope article where this photo came from:
Wow! What an amazing event. And the timing is simply uncanny. Stefan Geens posted about the remarkable coincidence today at OgleEarth and not only provides more details and links to interesting data about the object, but also has provided a KMZ file showing the exact location of the event in Google Sky. The file also includes two image overlays from optical observations of the event (one close-up view, and a broader view).
The name of the object is officially GRB 080319B. GRB stands for Gamma Ray Burst, and the number is the date of the event. Given the proximity of the event to Arthur Clarke’s death, I think it should be called the “Clarke Event“.