Astronomers see gamma-ray burst shot toward Earth halfway across Universe
Guido Chincarini, the Italian principal investigator for Swift, stated, "It was so bright that it almost blinded the Swift instruments for a while." [ESO press release: "A burst to see"]
The NASA media release "Naked-Eye" Gamma-Ray Burst Was Aimed Squarely At Earth,” stated, “Gamma-ray bursts are the universe's most luminous explosions. Most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel. As a star's core collapses, it creates a black hole or neutron star that, through processes not fully understood, drive powerful gas jets outward. These jets punch through the collapsing star. As the jets shoot into space, they strike gas previously shed by the star and heat it. That generates bright afterglows.”
The September 11, 2008 Nature article “GRB 080319B: fit to burst” reported that “The γ-ray burst GRB 080319B, the result of the violent collapse of a massive star to form a black hole, is the most luminous optical flash so far observed in the 40-year history of γ-ray astronomy.”
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are generally short flashes of energetic gamma-rays. Their duration is usually from less than one second to several minutes. During this time, they release an enormous amount of energy.
They are considered the most powerful events since the Big Bang, the explosion that astronomers believe started our universe. Most astronomers contend that the majority of gamma-ray bursts indicate the explosion of very massive, highly matured stars that are collapsing into black holes.
Neil Gehrels, the Swift principal investigator from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, Maryland), stated, “Swift was designed to find unusual bursts…. We really hit the jackpot with this one."
A summary of the observations made on GRB 080319B was published in the journal Nature. Its title “Broadband observations of the naked-eye γ-ray burst GRB 080319B” appears in the Thursday, September 11, 2008 issue of the journal (Nature 455, 183-188 (11 September 2008)).
The 92-member international team was lead by Dr. Judith Racusin, from the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Pennsylvania State University (University Park, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)
Other observatories and satellites also investigated the event. Please read page three.
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William Atkins completed educational degrees in science (bachelor’s in physics and mathematics) from Illinois State University (Normal, United States) and business (master’s in entrepreneurship and bachelor’s in industrial relations) from Western Illinois University