Feeds

NASA 'scope captures ferocious gamma ray burst

Energy of 9,000 ordinary supernovae

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope's has captured a hi-res image of a gamma-ray burst boasting "the greatest total energy, the fastest motions and the highest-energy initial emissions ever seen".

The explosion, known to its chums as GRB 080916C, was detected on 15 September last year in the constellation Carina at a distance of 12.2 billion light-years from Earth. It was captured by Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) and the GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM) which between them recorded "the blast's initial, or prompt, gamma-ray emission from energies between 3,000 to more than 5 billion times that of visible light".

NASA's Swift satellite subsequently deployed its UltraViolet/Optical and X-ray telescopes to provide this image of the explosion's X-ray afterglow:

GRB 080916C's X-ray afterglow. Pic: NASA

Peter Michelson, the principal investigator on Fermi's Large Area Telescope, enthused: "We were waiting for this one. Burst emissions at these energies are still poorly understood, and Fermi is giving us the tools to understand them."

To put the scale of the burst in prespective, NASA says it "exceeded the power of approximately 9,000 ordinary supernovae, if the energy was emitted equally in all directions". The agency explains that this is "a standard way for astronomers to compare events even though gamma-ray bursts emit most of their energy in tight jets".

Scientists used the event's distance and Fermi readings to calculate "the slowest speeds possible for material emitting the prompt gamma rays" - a figure of 99.9999 per cent of the speed of light. The burst's "tremendous power and speed make it the most extreme recorded to date", NASA notes.

Fermi's oberservation are helping scientists understand exactly what provokes these massive outpouring of energy. NASA explains that "most occur when exotic massive stars run out of nuclear fuel", provoking the core to collapse into a black hole.

As the star crumples inwards, jets of material are ejected into space at high speed - "powered by processes not yet fully understood". The afterglow effect is caused by the jets interacting with gas previously shed by the star, NASA notes.

There's more on the event, including info on further observations by the Gamma-Ray Burst Optical/Near-Infrared Detector on the 2.2-meter telescope at the European Southern Observatory in La Silla, Chile, right here. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
Cutting cancer rates: Data, models and a happy ending?
How surgery might be making cancer prognoses worse
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Brit balloon bod Bodnar overflies North Pole
B-64 amateur ultralight payload approaching second circumnavigation
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Scale data protection with your virtual environment
To scale at the rate of virtualization growth, data protection solutions need to adopt new capabilities and simplify current features.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?