The locations of all 2704 Gamma Ray Bursts detected by BATSE in the 9 year mission.
Click on image for full size
NASA, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, BATSE Team
Gamma Ray Bursts - The Most Powerful Objects in the Universe?
In the 1960's, the United States launched a series of satellites
to look for very high energy photons, called Gamma Rays, that are
produced whenever a nuclear bomb explodes. These satellites soon
detected many bursts of Gamma Rays, but they were not coming from
explosions on Earth. They were coming from outer space.
Modern satellites, like the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and
NASA's Swift mission,
have now detected thousands of these Gamma
Ray Bursts. They happen about once a day and come from all over
the sky, as the map shows. There seem to be two main types of
bursts. Some are short, lasting less than 2 seconds. Others are
longer, bursting for as long as 1000 seconds. We now believe that
all Gamma Ray Bursts come from high-energy explosions that create
black holes in distant galaxies. The two types
of bursts come from two different ways to make a black hole.
Short Gamma Ray Bursts seem to come from binary systems, where two
neutron stars are orbiting each other. These
collapsed stars slowly lose energy and eventually merge together to
form a black hole. The gamma rays come from leftover debris falling
into the black hole.
Long Gamma Ray Bursts come from the deaths of stars that are between
50 and 100 times the mass of the Sun. At the end of their lives, these
massive stars collapse and explode as a type of
supernova that is unusually bright, called
a hypernova. The gamma rays shoot out along jets from these explosions,
which sometimes point toward the Earth.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
You might also be interested in:
Neutron Stars are the end point of a massive star's life. When a really massive star runs out of nuclear fuel in its core the core begins to collapse under gravity. When the core collapses the entire star...more
Firefly, it's called, this new small satellite mission sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). It's designed to help solve the mystery of the most powerful natural particle accelerator in Earth's...more
In the 1960's, the United States launched a series of satellites to look for very high energy photons, called Gamma Rays, that are produced whenever a nuclear bomb explodes. These satellites soon detected...more
The introduction of telescopes to the study of astronomy opened up the universe, but it took some time for astronomers to realize how vast the universe could be. Telescopes revealed that our night sky...more
Spiral galaxies may remind you of pinwheels turning slowly as though in some intergalactic breeze. They are rotating disks of gas, dust and stars. Through a telescope or binoculars, the bright nucleus...more
White Dwarfs are the remnants of stars that were massive enough to stay alive using nuclear fusion in their cores, but not massive enough to blow apart in a Type II supernova. When stars like our own sun...more
What's in a Name: Arabic for "head of the demon" Claim to Fame: Represents Medusa's eye in Perseus. A special variable star that "winks" every 3 days. Type of Star: Blue-white Main Sequence Star, and...more