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This brilliant image shows a gamma-ray burst. The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission created the image. Discovered thirty years ago, gamma-ray bursts continue to be a mystery to scientists. The burst shown here created as much energy in ten seconds as the Sun will in 10 billion years.
Click on image for full size
Corel Photography

An Unexpected View
News story originally written on October 3, 1997

The NEAR (Near-Earth Asteroid Rendevous) spacecraft took a big step in figuring out the mysteries behind gamma-ray bursts. Gamma-rays are high-energy particles which come from these explosions.

It was an unexpected find. The NEAR spacecraft was on its way to visit an asteroid. Scientists decided that this would be a great time to activate the gamma-ray detector. This led to the first detection of a gamma-ray burst on September 15. Six more bursts have been detected since then.

The NEAR spacecraft isn't alone in its observations. These bursts have been confirmed by the Ulysses spacecraft which is in orbit about the Sun and the Wind spacecraft orbiting the Earth.

Gamma-ray bursts are one of the true mysteries in astrophysics. They were discovered over 30 years ago. Scientists can't figure out what makes these bursts of gamma-rays or where they are coming from. Hopefully, with the help of the NEAR spacecraft, scientists will be able to solve the mysteries that lie behind these bursts.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA