Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists Worldwide Race To Observe Fading Gamma-Ray Burst

Date:
October 10, 2002
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
Scientists have seen the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst just nine minutes after the explosion, a result of precision coordination and fast slewing of ground-based telescopes upon detection of the burst by NASA's High-Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite.

Scientists have seen the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst just nine minutes after the explosion, a result of precision coordination and fast slewing of ground-based telescopes upon detection of the burst by NASA's High-Energy Transient Explorer (HETE) satellite.

The quick turnaround has so far allowed scientists to determine a minimum distance to the explosion, which likely marks the creation of a black hole. Results continue to pour in, as nearly 100 telescopes in 11 countries have tracked the burst.

The burst was detected on Friday, Oct. 4, at 8:06 a.m. EDT. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory observed the afterglow on the following day, and another Hubble observation is planned for later this week. These and other observations are providing valuable clues to the mysterious nature of gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions known.

"This is the big one that didn't get away," said George R. Ricker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, principal investigator for the international 20-person HETE team. "HETE sent out a burst alert in 11 seconds and then followed-up with an accurate location just 48 seconds later, while the bright gamma-ray emission was still in progress. HETE's prompt localization has resulted in this burst being by far the best-observed burst in the 30-year history of gamma-ray burst astronomy."

The burst lasted approximately 100 seconds, a relatively bright and long-lasting burst. Racing the clock and the break of dawn, Derek Fox, an astronomer at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, turned the 48-inch Oschin Schmidt telescope at the Palomar Observatory to the location that HETE provided. Just nine minutes after the burst, Fox detected a fading, 15th-magnitude source -- the afterglow of the burst.

Gamma-ray bursts have the energy of a billion trillion Suns. Scientists have been hard-pressed to determine their origin, because they occur randomly in the universe and disappear quickly, usually within a minute or less. Theorists say the bursts are the creation of a black hole as a result of massive star explosions or the merger of neutron stars, or both.

HETE is designed to detect gamma-ray bursts and relay their locations within seconds to a worldwide network of radio, optical and X-ray telescopes. While the burst itself -- a flash of gamma rays, the most energetic form of light -- disappears quickly, the afterglow may linger in lower-energy light forms for days or weeks.

The optical afterglow of this burst is still so bright that it outshines the entire galaxy in which it is located, making it too bright to obtain information about its host galaxy for now.

Japanese astronomers in Kyoto and Bisei, under a blanket of dark sky, confirmed the Palomar observation and watched the burst's brightness fade by half over the next two hours. Seven hours after the burst occurred, astronomers at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia reported the burst occurred more than 10 billion light-years from Earth.

By Saturday, amateur astronomers were also observing the spectacle. And in the hours and days to come, astronomers will comb the burst region with radio, X-ray and other optical telescopes, searching for more clues to the burst's origin.

HETE, a U.S. collaboration with France and Japan, is the first satellite dedicated to the study of gamma-ray bursts and is on an extended mission until 2004. NASA's Swift mission, planned for an October 2003 launch, is expected to detect, locate and observe bursts with even greater precision.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Scientists Worldwide Race To Observe Fading Gamma-Ray Burst." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 October 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021010072534.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2002, October 10). Scientists Worldwide Race To Observe Fading Gamma-Ray Burst. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021010072534.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Scientists Worldwide Race To Observe Fading Gamma-Ray Burst." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/10/021010072534.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: NASA Captures Solar Flare

Raw: NASA Captures Solar Flare

AP (Sep. 1, 2014) NASA reported the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, on August 24th. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of the sun. (Sept. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Space Shuttle Discovery's Legacy, 30 Years Later

Newsy (Aug. 30, 2014) The space shuttle Discovery launched for the very first time 30 years ago. Here's a look back at its legacy. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins