Brightest Object Ever Observed in Google Sky

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“.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. commenter says:

    “And the timing is simply uncanny.”
    Indeed – big fire in sky appear when great man dies – gotta be meaningful. I bet Clarkie would love that superstitious nonsense.

  2. Stuart Goldman says:

    Dennis Overbye made the same GRB/Clarke comparison in today’s New York Times. (Science Times section)

  3. Your post reminds me of a Clarke short story. I had to spend some time trying to remember it. Found an article about the story on wikipedia –

  4. “..ever observed by humans..”
    I wonder how they know that no such events were observed in the past? Considering that the detection technology for such events is extremely recent, they might in fact be relatively common.

  5. Mr. Overbye comparison in New York Times some days ago was interesting reading. (Science Times section). Thanks for the hint !

  6. I think it should be called “Arthur Clarke Entering Heaven” event.

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