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Massive Star’s Dying Blast Caught By Pure Chance!

By Dave Reneke

A massive star’s dying blast has been caught by pure chance, and how early moons collided to form today’s Moon.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

On 25 June 2016, an international team of 31 astronomers caught a massive star as it died in a titanic explosion deep in space. The blast released in about 40 seconds as much energy as the Sun releases over its entire lifetime, all focused into a tight beam of gamma rays and fortuitously aimed directly toward Earth. The team’s findings provide strong evidence for one of two competing models for how gamma-ray bursters produce their energy.

The gamma-ray blast was detected by two NASA satellites that monitor the sky for such events: the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Mission. These detected the burst of gamma rays, identified from where in the sky it came, and sent its celestial position within seconds to automated telescopes on the ground.

The MASTER-IRC telescope at the Teide Observatory in the Canary Islands observed it first, within a minute of the satellite notification. It made optical light observations while the initial phase was still active, gathering data on the amount of polarised optical light relative to the total light produced.

Gamma-ray bursts are detected approximately once per day, and are brief but intense flashes of gamma radiation. They come from all different directions in the sky, and they last from tens of milliseconds to about a minute, making it hard to observe them in detail.


The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.