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Breaking News:

Star Explosion Is Most Powerful Ever Seen

Star Explosion Is Most Powerful Ever Seen

Brilliant GRB Blast with an Amateur Twist

Scientists record the brightest explosion ever seen in space

Appendix

NASA's Fermi, Swift See 'Shockingly Bright' Burst - 05.03.13

GRB 130427A

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Star Explosion Is Most Powerful Ever Seen

Posted on 29 June 2013 by "the witness"

By: Miriam Kramer

Published: May 7, 2013 

http://i.imwx.com/common/articles/images/gamma-ray-burst2_650x366.jpg

This image shows the most powerful gamma-ray burst ever seen. Released on May 3, 2013.

NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

Two NASA space telescopes have captured what appears to be the most powerful star explosion ever detected, a cosmic event so luminous that scientists dubbed it "eye-wateringly bright" despite being 3.6 billion light-years from Earth.

On April 27, NASA's Swift Space Telescope and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope spotted the highest-energy gamma-ray burst (GRB) — an explosion of a massive star in the last stage of its life — ever before seen.

NASA scientists combined the observations into a video animation of the historic gamma-ray burst to illustrate the surprising brightness of this star explosion.

"We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright," Julie McEnery, a project scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement. "The GRB lasted so long that a record number of telescopes on the ground were able to catch it while space-based observations were still ongoing."

One of the gamma-rays emitted during the eruption — seen in the constellation Leo — was three times more energetic than any other gamma-ray burst recorded by Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT), the instrument on the spacecraft responsible for detecting these kinds of explosions.

The gamma-ray burst (named GRB 130427A) was also the longest ever recorded, NASA officials said.

"The GeV [energy] emission from the burst lasted for hours, and it remained detectable by the LAT for the better part of a day, setting a new record for the longest gamma-ray emission from a GRB," NASA officials added.

Gamma-ray bursts are the brightest explosions yet observed in the universe.

"Astronomers think most [gamma-ray bursts] occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel and collapse under their own weight," NASA officials said in a statement. "As the core collapses into a black hole, jets of material shoot outward at nearly the speed of light."

Swift's detection of this burst was delayed. The satellite was moving between cosmic targets at the time of the eruption, but the spacecraft captured the explosion less than a minute after it began. Swift also aided astronomers in placing the gamma-ray burst closer to Earth than most other star explosions of its kind, NASA officials said.

"This GRB is in the closest 5 percent of bursts, so the big push now is to find an emerging supernova, which accompanies nearly all long GRBs at this distance," Goddard's Neil Gehrels, principal investigator for Swift, said in a statement.

Scientists are hoping to find a supernova within the area of the explosion in order to trace the gamma-ray burst back to its origins.

Observatories on the ground are keeping an eye on GRB 130427A's area of the sky to locate the supernova by mid-May.

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Brilliant GRB Blast with an Amateur Twist

Amateur record of GRB 130427A

Utah amateur Patrick Wiggins captured an image of GRB 130427A (upper panel) in the wee hours of April 27, 2013, despite interference from a nearly full Moon. He kept snapping away, as the blast dimmed in magnitude from 13.2 to 15.7 over the next three hours (lower panel).

Patrick Wiggins

The gamma-ray burst GRB 130427A erupted on April 27th with record-setting power. That made it an easy target for two of NASA's orbiting observatories, major ground-based telescopes, and even one lucky backyard observer. It reached visual magnitude 7.4.

Over the past four decades, orbiting observatories have recorded thousands of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) coming from the depths of space. The lion's share of those have been snared by NASA's Swift, launched in 2004; and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, launched in 2008.

But one that erupted at 7:47 Universal Time on April 27th turned out to be a record-setting blast. "We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright," notes Julie McEnery, Fermi's project scientist, in a NASA press release. One of the blast's gamma rays had an energy at least 35 billion times that of a visible-light photon.

Moreover, this GRB, designated 130427A, lasted for hours — easily long enough for numerous ground-based telescopes to swing around to watch at visible-light and infrared wavelengths. Its location, in northeastern Leo, was right ascension 11 h 32 m 33 s, declination +27° 41′ 56″.

Not many GRBs become bright enough in visible light to be within range of amateur observers. But this one was, and it caught the attention of Patrick Wiggins, who just happened to be awake — and imaging the night sky with his 14-inch telescope in Tooele, Utah. Wiggins was in the middle of snack break when notice arrived about Swift's detection. "I figured I was too late to catch anything, but I was currently working a spot on the sky just a few degrees from the predicted location," Wiggins told me via email, "so I slewed over and made a quick 60-second exposure."

There, clearly evident in the middle of his image, was a 13th-magnitude dot — too bright to be a GRB, Wiggins thought. So he slewed over a bit and took another image — and there it was again. He kept recording throughout the night, finally shutting down as dawn approached. At right are one of his images (made hazy by strong moonlight) and the light curve he derived. "It was my first GRB detection," exults Wiggins. "That it happened on my birthday made it even more special to me."

And that was just the afterglow. Three RAPTOR all-sky monitors recorded an optical counterpart at magnitude 7.4, 50 seconds before the Swift satellite trigger. Within a minute the optical glow was fainter than magnitude 10. Several other robotic telescopes were pointing to the spot within minutes; they caught the afterglow at about 11th magnitude. This compares to the visible-light record holder GRB 080319B, which reached magnitude 5.3 in 2008.

Gamma-ray bursts are typically short or long. Astronomers think that the latter type, which usually last no longer than a minute or so, herald the death of a supermassive star. The collapse of the star's core triggers jets of relativistic matter so powerful that they bore outward through the star and into the surrounding space. Interactions with shells of gas previously shed by the dying star creates dazzling outbursts of radiation — the most luminous explosions known.

GRB 130427A appeared so bright because it was relatively nearby, "just" 3.6 billion light-years away. This proximity ranks among the 5% closest GRBs recorded to date, and it gives observers hope that they'll be able to spot the star's shattered remains in the days and weeks ahead.

Ironically, gamma-ray scientists from around the world had just wrapped up a weeklong meeting to discuss their latest findings when the brilliant blast appeared.

Posted by Kelly Beatty, May 6, 2013

related content:

Black Holes, Spacecraft and space missions, Stellar science

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SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS:

Scientists record the brightest explosion ever seen in space

May 9, 2013

SIGNS IN THE SUN, MOON AND STARS : A star being ripped to shreds in a violent supernova is one of the most powerful explosions in the universe. The largest supernovae can produce gamma-ray bursts: a tightly concentrated lance of light that streams out into space. Gamma-ray bursts, says NASA, “are the most luminous and mysterious explosions in the universe.” The blasts emit surges of gamma rays — the most powerful form of light — as well as X-rays, and they produce afterglows that can be observed at optical and radio energies. Two weeks ago, says NASA, astronomers saw the longest and brightest gamma-ray burst ever detected. It was the biggest shot of energy we’ve ever seen, streaming from the universe’s most powerful class of explosions. NASA: “We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright,” said Julie McEnery, project scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “The event, labeled GRB 130427A, was the most energetic gamma-ray burst yet seen, and also had the longest duration,” says Matthew Francis for Ars Technica. “The output from GRB 130427A was visible in gamma ray light for nearly half a day, while typical GRBs fade within a matter of minutes or hours.” There are a few different of classes of gamma-ray bursts in the world. Astrophysicists think that some—short gamma-ray bursts—form when two neutron stars merge and emit a pulse of energy. Huge ones like the one just detected are known as long gamma-ray bursts, and they form when huge stars collapse, often leading to the formation of a black hole. Gamma-ray bursts focus their energy in a tightly-concentrated spire of energy. A few years ago, says Wired, researchers calculated what would happen if a gamma-ray burst went off nearby, and was pointed at the Earth. Steve Thorsett of Princeton University has calculated the consequences if such a merger were to take place within 3,500 light-years of Earth, with its energy aimed at the solar system. The blast would bathe Earth in the equivalent of 300,000 megatons of TNT, 30 times the world’s nuclear weaponry, with the gamma-ray and X-ray radiation stripping Earth of its ozone layer. While scientists cannot yet predict with any precision which nearby stars will go supernova, the merger of neutron star binaries is as predictable as any solar eclipse. Three such binary systems have been discovered, and one, PSR B1534+12, presently sits about 3,500 light-years away and will coalesce in a billion years. EP

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Appendix

 NASA's Fermi, Swift See 'Shockingly Bright' Burst - 05.03.13

Gamma-ray view of the sky before and during the GRB 130427A event

The maps in this animation show how the sky looks at gamma-ray energies above 100 million electron volts (MeV) with a view centered on the north galactic pole. The first frame shows the sky during a three-hour interval prior to GRB 130427A. The second frame shows a three-hour interval starting 2.5 hours before the burst, and ending 30 minutes into the event. The Fermi team chose this interval to demonstrate how bright the burst was relative to the rest of the gamma-ray sky. This burst was bright enough that Fermi autonomously left its normal surveying mode to give the LAT instrument a better view, so the three-hour exposure following the burst does not cover the whole sky in the usual way.

Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

› Larger animated image

› Side-by-side static image with labels

› Unlabeled side-by-side image

animation showing a more detailed Fermi LAT view of GRB 130427A

This animation shows a more detailed Fermi LAT view of GRB 130427A. The sequence shows high-energy (100 Mev to 100 GeV) gamma rays from a 20-degree-wide region of the sky starting three minutes before the burst to 14 hours after. Following an initial one-second spike, the LAT emission remained relatively quiet for the next 15 seconds while Fermi's GBM instrument showed bright, variable lower-energy emission. Then the burst re-brightened in the LAT over the next few minutes and remained bright for nearly half a day.

Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration

› Larger animated image

A record-setting blast of gamma rays from a dying star in a distant galaxy has wowed astronomers around the world. The eruption, which is classified as a gamma-ray burst, or GRB, and designated GRB 130427A, produced the highest-energy light ever detected from such an event.

"We have waited a long time for a gamma-ray burst this shockingly, eye-wateringly bright," said Julie McEnery, project scientist for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The GRB lasted so long that a record number of telescopes on the ground were able to catch it while space-based observations were still ongoing."

Just after 3:47 a.m. EDT on Saturday, April 27, Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) triggered on an eruption of high-energy light in the constellation Leo. The burst occurred as NASA's Swift satellite was slewing between targets, which delayed its Burst Alert Telescope's detection by less than a minute.

Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) recorded one gamma ray with an energy of at least 94 billion electron volts (GeV), or some 35 billion times the energy of visible light, and about three times greater than the LAT's previous record. The GeV emission from the burst lasted for hours, and it remained detectable by the LAT for the better part of a day, setting a new record for the longest gamma-ray emission from a GRB.

Swift view of GRB 130427A

Swift's X-Ray Telescope took this 0.1-second exposure of GRB 130427A at 3:50 a.m. EDT on April 27, just moments after Swift and Fermi triggered on the outburst. The image is 6.5 arcminutes across.

Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

› Larger image

The burst subsequently was detected in optical, infrared and radio wavelengths by ground-based observatories, based on the rapid accurate position from Swift. Astronomers quickly learned that the GRB was located about 3.6 billion light-years away, which for these events is relatively close.

Gamma-ray bursts are the universe's most luminous explosions. Astronomers think most occur when massive stars run out of nuclear fuel and collapse under their own weight. As the core collapses into a black hole, jets of material shoot outward at nearly the speed of light.

The jets bore all the way through the collapsing star and continue into space, where they interact with gas previously shed by the star and generate bright afterglows that fade with time.

If the GRB is near enough, astronomers usually discover a supernova at the site a week or so after the outburst.

"This GRB is in the closest 5 percent of bursts, so the big push now is to find an emerging supernova, which accompanies nearly all long GRBs at this distance," said Goddard's Neil Gehrels, principal investigator for Swift.

Ground-based observatories are monitoring the location of GRB 130427A and expect to find an underlying supernova by midmonth.

http://media.eurekalert.org/multimedia_prod/pub/web/56162_web.jpg

Swift's X-Ray Telescope Exposure of GRB 130427A

› Download additional graphics from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio
› Archive of GRB notices from the Gamma-ray Coordination Network
› "NASA's Fermi Telescope Sees Most Extreme Gamma-ray Blast Yet" (02.19.09)
› NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
› NASA's Swift mission

 Francis Reddy
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

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GRB 130427A

Contact: Francis Reddy
Francis.j.reddy@nasa.gov
301-286-4453
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Caption: Swift's X-Ray Telescope took this 26.5-second exposure of GRB 130427A at 3:50 a.m. EDT on April 27, just moments after Swift and Fermi triggered on the outburst. The image is 6.5 arcminutes across.

Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

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Related news release:

NASA's Fermi, Swift see 'shockingly bright' burst

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