Imagine the Universe!

They're Here, They're There, They're Everywhere!
Gamma Ray Bursts! (A Double Feature)

Gamma Ray bursts are the most powerful explosions which take place in the universe. They were first discovered in the late 1960's. For many years scientists puzzled over how far away they are and what causes them. The BATSE instrument on the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory observes these bursts about once a day, uniformly distributed throughout the sky. This suggested that the bursts occur very far away, but how far still remained a mystery.

In 1997, the Beppo-SAX satellite, along with ground based observatories, made the discoveries which transformed our understanding of these brilliant flashes of gamma rays. Beppo-Sax employed a technique using a special aperture mask to determine the location of the bursts. The first video of our double feature explains what scientists then discovered.

What causes these intense bursts of gamma rays? Two theories are now being debated among scientists - hypernova and merging neutron stars. The second video describes these theories.

* Play me part of a song about Gamma Ray Bursts ! (text)

from "Swift is ...", words and music by Padi Boyd,
arranged by Padi Boyd, Alan Smale, Karen Smale, and Deb Nixon.
Sung by The Chromatics.

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

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