Image Galleries: Adam Block's Images of the Sky: Gamma Ray Burst- March 30th 2008

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A Recent Big Bang

On March 30th an explosion that could be seen half-way across the Universe was witnessed here on Earth by a handful of telescopes around the world. Gamma Ray Bursts are tremendous cataclysms of energy output from various astronomical processes. Many are the gigantic deaths of stars in far away galaxies. Others might be generated by black holes swallowing enormous amounts of mass or perhaps the collisions of two neutron stars. Whatever the cause these explosions are very bright. The first energies released come in the form of gamma ray photons. Shortly afterwords, when the materials of the exposions have cooled there is a a short-lived optical afterglow. The game that astronomers play to detect these explosions is to get word (through e-mail) from a satellite in space that is specifically designed to see these gamma ray bursts. The satellite (SWIFT-BAT) gives a rough coordinate position on the sky and the adroit observer can swing his or her telescope to this piece of sky and find the afterglow.

This is exactly what I did on this March evening. My first image was taken just 20 minutes after the announcement of the GRB detection from the SWIFT satellite. I continued to make measurements (300 second exposures) for the next 3 hours. The resulting light curve of these observations is above. Please see the PRESS RELEASE that announced these observations. Note that the light curve shown above indicates that as the afterglow faded, it did not do so in a strictly smooth manner which hints that the explosion ran into other material during its outward rush!

Clicking on the image above yields a Log-Log plot which shows a reasonably linear behavior as is expected with these kinds of afterglows. You may also see a video of these observations by clicking HERE

Exposure Duration: Luminance 3 hours
Celestron 11-inch SCT, SSBIG T1001 CCD camera
Credit: Adam Block/Seeing in the Dark Internet Telescope/Tim Ferris

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Although larger versions of this image are available, they are NOT to be used without the expressed permission of Adam Block.