History Haiku – Clarke Event – GRB 080319B – March 19, 2008

polaroid of black and white cat overlaid with red letters

Billions of
Light-years
away a star
death reaches
us
so bright
wisemen
might follow
it

On March 19th, 2008 GRB 080319B was detected by the Swift space telescope – this Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) came from 7.5 billion light-years away and for 30 seconds was visible to the unaided human eye here on Earth. This makes it the furthest object ever visible to the human eye. It is also one of the brightest cosmic events ever recorded. GRBs are thought to herald the collapse or implosion of a star into a black hole or neutron star. GRB 080319B was detected just hours before the death of science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame, among many many other stories) and so it has been proposed that this GRB be called the Clarke Event. I don’t know if that has been made official, but it was an inspiration for my poem. Clarke wrote a story called The Star in 1955 and this story (SPOILER ALERT) features a supernova and mass extinction in a distant galaxy that becomes a key aspect of the Nativity here on Earth.

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