GRB 090423 and the next 13 billion years

swift_226In April, NASA’s orbiting Swift observatory reported a distant gamma-ray burst from a massive explosion ending the life of a star. Ground-based measurements now find GRB 090423 to be the most distant and oldest object yet detected in our universe; it is some 13.1 billion light-years away, a hint of an explosion just 630 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was less than a ninth of its present size.

In a 29 Oct 09 editorial, even the New York Times waxes lyrical:

It’s one thing to explore such remote recesses of time in theory. It’s something else again to witness their afterglow. And GRB 090423 is an invitation for all of us to unfetter our imaginations. We imagine looking outward from that distant point knowing that our own exploration still lies some 13 billion years in the future.