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Synopsis

Gamma-ray bursts—flashes of intense radiation in space that are often just seconds long—were accidentally discovered in the 1960's by satellites built to monitor nuclear bomb explosions. They’ve been one of the leading astrophysical mysteries ever since. This Astro Bulletin introduces you to the scientists and instruments working to unravel the origins of gamma-ray bursts. It highlights Swift, NASA’s burst-detecting satellite, and PAIRITEL, one of a fleet of ground-based telescopes that point toward a gamma-ray burst in response to Swift’s alert to capture the afterglow before it fades. Astrophysicists at Penn State and other institutions are analyzing these afterglows to understand what causes the most powerful explosions known.

American Museum of Natural History

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