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Brightest of a sequence of images of the gamma ray burst
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of ROTSE

Scientists Image Gamma Ray Burst As It Occurs
News story originally written on January 30, 1999

Last week scientists were able to take the first pictures of a gamma ray burst while it was occuring.

In just 22 seconds after detection of the burst by the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) aboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, scientists with the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE) began to take images of the event. Five seconds after they started observering it, the burst reached its peak intensity.

"If this burst had originated in the Milky Way Galaxy, it would have lit up the night sky," said Dr. Alan Bunner, Director of NASA's Structure and Evolution of the Universe science theme at NASA Headquarters.

Up until now, scientists had only been able to capture the afterglow of the events and never the burst itself. Hopefully these images and others that can be collected using similar automated detection systems will help scientists determine what causes gamma ray bursts.

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