LONDON – Researchers claim they’ve found the most distant explosion ever detected, a pulse of high energy radiation sent by a disintegrating star near the edge of the observable universe.

The stellar blast was first spotted by a NASA satellite in April 2009, but researchers announced Wednesday that they have since gathered data placing it more than 13 billion light years away — meaning that the event took place when the universe was still in its infancy.

Andrew Levan, one of the scientists behind the discovery, said this shows that massive stars were already dying within the first few hundred million years of the birth of the universe.

This particular explosion wasn’t a supernova but a gamma ray burst, the name given to a short but powerful pulse of high energy radiation. Such bursts, thought to result from the collapse of massive stars into black holes, shoot jets of energy across the universe.

Charles Meegan, a NASA researcher in gamma ray astronomy, said that a typical burst “puts out in a few seconds the same energy expended by the sun in its whole 10-billion-year life span.”

“You can’t get your arms around that very easily,” he said. “I can’t. And I’ve been thinking about it for decades,” said Meegan, who was not involved in the research.

Not only are gamma ray bursts more powerful than supernovae, but they’re faster too — typically lasting only a few seconds or minutes.

They work differently, as well. Whereas a supernova spreads its radiation all around, gamma ray bursts shoot it out in narrow beams, like a laser, which can make them hard to detect.