Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Magnetic power revealed in gamma-ray burst jet

Date:
December 14, 2009
Source:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Summary:
A specialized camera on a telescope operated by UK astronomers has made the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst.

Gamma-ray bursts that are longer than two seconds are caused by the detonation of a rapidly rotating massive star at the end of its life on the main sequence. Jets of particles and gamma radiation are emitted in opposite directions from the stellar core as the star collapses. In this model, a narrow beam of gamma rays is emitted, followed by a wider beam of gamma rays. The narrow beam for GRB 080319B was aimed almost precisely at the Earth, which made it the brightest gamma-ray burst observed to date by NASA's Swift satellite.
Credit: NASA/Swift/Cruz deWilde

A specialized camera on a telescope operated by U.K. astronomers from Liverpool has made the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst (GRB). The result is reported in the Dec. 10 issue of Nature magazine by the team of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) astronomers who built and operate the telescope and its unique scientific camera, named RINGO.

Related Articles


The burst occurred January 2, 2009. NASA's Swift satellite observed its position and immediately notified telescopes all over the world via the Internet. When it received the trigger from Swift, the robotic Liverpool Telescope on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands automatically swung to observe the burst. Its special camera employs a spinning disk of Polaroid -- similar to the material used in sunglasses.

"By observing how the brightness of the GRB varied as we spun the Polaroid, we could measure the magnetic field in the burst," explained Iain Steele, Director of the Liverpool Telescope.

"This important result gives us new insight into the physics of these remarkable objects and is a testament to the close collaboration between observers, theoreticians and technologists in the Liverpool and NASA Swift teams," added LMJU team leader Carole Mundell. "It's incredible to think that the GRB discovery and our measurement process -- from first detection and notification by NASA's Swift satellite to the polarization measurement using RINGO on the Liverpool Telescope -- took place completely automatically within less than three minutes and with no human intervention!"

"This breakthrough observation gives us the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a GRB," said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels, Swift lead scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Gamma Ray Bursts form when the core of a massive star collapses or when two neutron stars merge together. The resulting explosions are the brightest events in the universe and vastly outshine entire galaxies containing hundreds of billions of stars. NASA's Swift satellite sees about 100 of these events each year, triggering ground-based follow-up by observations across the globe.

Polarization is one of the least-observed properties in astronomy. This finding opens the door to understanding the role of magnetic fields in some of the most powerful events in the universe.

"These very interesting observations raise the possibility that gamma-ray bursts are not fireballs as usually presumed but are powered and collimated by an organized electromagnetic field," said Roger Blandford, Director of the Kavli Institute of Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University, California, commenting on the result's importance. "It will be very interesting to see if there are similarities in observations of other kinds of cosmic jets."

Funding for the operation of the Liverpool Telescope and GRB research at Liverpool JMU is provided by the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council. Swift is managed by NASA Goddard. It was built and is being operated in collaboration with Pennsylvania State University, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and General Dynamics of Gilbert, Ariz., in the United States. International collaborators include the University of Leicester and Mullard Space Sciences Laboratory in the United Kingdom, Brera Observatory and the Italian Space Agency in Italy, and additional partners in Germany and Japan.


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.


Journal Reference:

  1. I. A. Steele, C. G. Mundell, R. J. Smith, S. Kobayashi & C. Guidorzi. Ten per cent polarized optical emission from GRB 090102. Nature, 2009; 462 (7274): 767 DOI: 10.1038/nature08590

Cite This Page:

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Magnetic power revealed in gamma-ray burst jet." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209151442.htm>.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. (2009, December 14). Magnetic power revealed in gamma-ray burst jet. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209151442.htm
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. "Magnetic power revealed in gamma-ray burst jet." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091209151442.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) Lunar Mission One is offering to send your digital memory (or even your DNA) to the moon to be stored for a billion years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) Serious accidents with two US commercial spacecraft within a week of each-other in October have re-ignited the debate over the place of private corporations in the exploration of space. Duration: 02:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One plans to send a module to the moon with keepsakes from Earth. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) tells you how to get your photos and DNA onboard. Video provided by Buzz60
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

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