More than 30 years after the discovery of gamma ray bursts -- titanic explosions in the outer reaches of the universe -- scientists are still baffled by them.
Undaunted, more than 200 astrophysicists and astronomers will converge next week in north Alabama, hoping to shed new light on one of the cosmos’ great mysteries.
The 5th Gamma Ray Burst Symposium will convene Oct. 18-22 at the Huntsville Hilton in Huntsville, Ala. The biannual event is sponsored by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Universities Space Research Association, headquartered in Columbia, Md.
Researchers from a range of astronomical fields will pore over new findings and continue the debate over gamma ray bursts and their strange origins. Other topics of discussion will include the physics of the phenomenon, typical burst characteristics and plans for future space missions and ground-based observation. A special seminar on soft gamma repeaters -- a type of recurring gamma ray burst that occurs within our galaxy -- will kick off the symposium on Oct. 18 at 1:30 p.m. in the Hilton’s Grand Salon Ballroom.
A complete agenda can be found on the World Wide Web at: http://www.batse.msfc.nasa.gov/events/5hgrbs/
First detected in 1967 by a team of researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, gamma ray bursts have mystified and fascinated scientists ever since. Occupying the shortest wavelength at the high end of the electromagnetic spectrum, bursts occur at random across the heavens, many appearing to lack any association with known objects.
Findings made in the last few years indicate these bursts most likely originate far outside our galaxy -- some as far away as 8 or 12 billion light years.
That immense gulf should come as a relief to Earth inhabitants, given that gamma ray bursts signal cataclysmic explosions in space -- some big enough to wipe out every sign of life within light years of the blast.
Materials provided by NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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