Stories tagged gamma rays

Mar
26
2008

On March 19, there was a tremendous explosion in outer space. The massive gamma-ray burst was faintly visible to the naked eye, despite being 7.5 billion light years away. That’s half the distance across the Universe, and 1,000 times further than the previous record for most distant visible object. Gamma-ray bursts occur when giant stars run out of fuel and collapse, releasing huge amounts of energy.

Oct
13
2005

Scientists have finally solved the mystery of gamma ray bursts, the most violent explosions in the universe. Lasting a fraction of a second, they release 100,000,000,000,000 (100 trillion) times more energy than the Sun. But since they were first detected in 1970, scientists have wondered what exactly gamma ray bursts are.

Now, thanks to three satellites and four ground-based telescopes, they have figures out that the explosions occur when two neutron stars collide, or when a neutron star is swallowed by a black hole.

A neutron star is an old star that has burned off most of its fuel and collapsed under its own weight. Though they are only about 10 miles across, they weigh 1 1/2 times as much as the Sun. Gravity squeezes the atoms of together until the protons and electrons merge, forming neutrons.

Collisions between neutron stars can also create black holes. This study may give scientists their first chance to learn how black holes are formed.