Thirty years ago, a U.S. spy satellite searching for clandestine nuclear weapons tests detected frequent, but brief, bursts of powerful gamma-rays. Fortunately for world peace, they came from space, not from the Earth. Astronomers have puzzled over the origin of these bursts ever since. For close to twenty years after their discovery, gamma-ray bursts remained so mysterious that astronomers could not decide whether they came from nearby stars or galaxies on the far edge of the Universe. Only in the last few years has it become clear that they do, in fact, come from galaxies tens of billions of light-years away. To appear so bright at Earth, and yet come from such distant sources, the explosions that generate these gamma-rays must be truly enormous.
For information about the music performed during the end credits, please visit http://www.astrocappella.com/.
Gamma Ray Skies was produced by David Barrett Wilson. The audio engineer was Robin Wise. Special thanks to Jerry Bonnell of the NASA Space Flight Center. This program was funded in part by the National Science Foundation with additional support from NASA, WABE-FM, WAMU-FM and the Morehouse School of Medicine.
PROGRAM UPDATE: for several years, we've known that the Long Gamma Ray bursts were caused by a neutron star exploding, then collapsing and forming a black hole. Thanks to new satellite imagery, we now know for certain that the short bursts happen when a neutron star collides with either another neutron star, or a black hole.
Scientists discover source of gamma ray bursts
The latest findings on astronomy's 35 year mystery.
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Gamma-Ray Bursts: Observations, Analyses and Theories
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