Gamma-Ray Burst GRB 080319B

Did you see what I saw?

The following is an accurate recount of witnessing an event that happened 7.5 billion years ago.

The earth is four and a half billion years young. Think about that as I try to figure out how to tell the story…

I have always been a bit of an astronomy nut.  My heroes range from Tesla, Aristotle, Voltaire, Galileo, and the more modern folks Sagan.

Tesla was probably close to crazy, but he thought outside the box.  All of these men thought outside the box.

Einstein would be in this group, except he did not think his invention through to a logical conclusion.

I would never give ‘man’ as he exists in this time a weapon as he did.

From sticks to boulders to viruses, man will use anything as a technical advantage over their peers.  Instead of fixing what divides us, they spend time and energy to find better ways to subdue their enemy, their peers.  I digress.

7.5 Billion years ago, an event of monumental proportions was witnessed by yours truly.

March of 2008, my back was killing me, metaphorically speaking.

Switching on the hot tub, I was soon sitting outside in the cool night air soaking in a bubbling cauldron of chlorinated, heavily salted water.

As the water jets worked to soothe my spasming muscles, I allowed the steam to clear my head.

There is something magical about watching the night sky. Once while floating in the pool during a hot summer day, I witnessed an orange ball of fire with a turquoise flame at the front of it streaking toward the southwest from overhead.  There was no trail of smoke or sonic boom, so I figured it had to be pretty high up as it blazed through the earth’s outer boundary’s

Watching the shuttle chase the ISS was another one of my rare glimpses of human-made oddities in the night sky.

While binoculars are a favorite for searching the heavens, I did not have them that night in March.

Watching for satellites would be fruitless. My part of the world, including that area of space over me, was in total darkness.  It was a little after one in the morning when I switched off the jets and debated if I could get some rest or not.

Taking one last look at the heavens, a bright flash captured my attention.

For a brief second, I wondered if I had stayed in the hot tub too long, when there was another and still yet another.  A succession of flashes about the brightness of a car’s headlights on a dark road continued for a little over ten seconds.

A blast of white with a slight yellow and red color around the edges that resembled an inkspot, lit the night sky.

I sat back, watching them for a second, twiring around briefly to see if something from behind me was causing them.

No, there was nothing from the streets or in the house. There were no clouds of any kind. 

My mind quickly took me to the Marfa lights.  I researched them after I went inside to see if the conditions were right for that phenomenon.  No and no.

What did I see?

Of course, Google searches rendered nothing.

Days turned into weeks of ‘nothing.’ I let it go.

One day, I am researching material for one of my novels, and what appears but an article on Gamma-Ray Bursters.

Focusing on the date and time and the sky’s location at that time of year, I found what I saw.

“It was a whopper,” says Swift principal investigator Neil Gehrels of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This blows away every gamma-ray burst we’ve seen so far.” *

“No other known object or type of explosion could be seen by the naked eye at such an immense distance,” says Swift science team member Stephen Holland of Goddard. “If someone just happened to be looking at the right place at the right time, they saw the most distant object ever seen by human eyes without optical aid.” *

Naked-eye Gamma Ray Burst | Science Mission Directorate (nasa.gov)  *

I remember as a kid watching the night sky. Orion is my favorite constellation.  I am sure it has to do with the horsehead nebula or Betelgeuse and its eventual demise.

Since the star is 642 light-years from here, it might already be gone. 

Much like the Gamma Ray Burster that happened 7.5 billion years ago, time marches on.

Look up, my friends.  Check out that Y-axis if you will.  There is no telling what you might see.

Much Love -TW