It may have happened aeons ago, but the self-destruction of a star 13.1 billion light years away has just been seen by scientists, giving them their farthest look into the universe yet.

The sighting of the burst was a group effort, according to New Scientist:

The burst, dubbed GRB 090423 for the date of its discovery last Thursday, was originally spotted by NASA's Swift satellite at 0755 GMT. Within an hour, astronomers began training ground-based telescopes on the same patch of sky to study the burst's infrared afterglow. Some of the first observations were made on Mauna Kea in Hawaii with the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope and the Gemini North telescope. Other telescopes later measured the spectrum of the afterglow, revealing that the burst detonated about 13.1 billion light years from Earth.


Scientists believe that the star's gamma-ray burst occurred 640 million years after the Big Bang, back when the first stars and galaxies were being created. This, according to University of California, Berkeley astronomer Joshua Bloom, is kind of a big deal:

This is the most distant object that's been seen in the universe... This is the beginning of the study of the universe as it was before most of the structure that we know about today came into being.


Okay, so now I'm slightly more convinced about its importance.
Most distant object in the universe spotted [New Scientist]