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NASA's Swift Observatory  (Source: NASA)
Gamma burst reported as most powerful on record.

NASA scientists have identified a violent cosmic eruption that temporarily blinded a NASA satellite in June.  An X-ray telescope that tracks gamma rays on board the NASA Swift satellite captured a record-breaking burst of rays that had left scientists mystified about its massive brightness and point of origin.  

At it's peak the gamma-ray explosion – documented as the most powerful emission on record -- produced between 143,000 and 145,000 X-ray protons per second, which is about 10 to 15 times brighter than previous bursts captured by the telescope.   

After weeks of analysis, researchers are now indicating that the astounding blast was produced by a massive star collapsing into a black hole.  

According to 
Astronomy.com and Space.com, although the Swift satellite was designed specifically to study gamma-ray bursts, the instrument was not designed to handle an X-ray blast this bright.

"The intensity of these X-rays was unexpected and unprecedented," said Neil Gehrels from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. He said the burst, named GRB 100621A, is the brightest X-ray source that Swift has detected since the observatory began X-ray observation in early 2005. "Just when we were beginning to think that we had seen everything that gamma-ray bursts could throw at us, this burst came along to challenge our assumptions about how powerful their X-ray emissions can be.”

The event was so powerful, it disrupted the telescope's data-analysis capabilities.

"The burst was so bright when it first erupted that our data-analysis software shut down," said Phil Evans from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom. "So many photons were bombarding the detector each second that it just couldn't count them quickly enough. It was like trying to use a rain gauge and a bucket to measure the flow rate of a tsunami."

The X-rays had been traveling for over 5 billion years before being detected by the Swift satellite.

The burst lasted for about one minute and was about 200 times brighter than the Crab Nebula, an X-ray radiation benchmark for astronomers. 

The X-ray blast is the brightest ever detected from outside of the Milky Way galaxy. 



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RE: Didn't we just...
By wallijonn on 7/19/2010 11:57:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Light travels at 300,000 m/s, so its pretty easy to figure out how long light would take to get from one point to another, that's just basic physics.


Except when dealing with Black Holes (?).

quote:
the astounding blast was produced by a massive star collapsing into a black hole.


Wouldn't the Black Hole have slowed down the speed of light? In which case it could be longer than 5 billion years ago.


RE: Didn't we just...
By SPOOFE on 7/19/2010 5:06:23 PM , Rating: 1
A black hole does not slow down the speed of light; the intense gravity well slows down time itself.

Regardless, "speed of light", or C, refers to the speed of light in a vacuum. The fact that one can physically slow down a photon does not mean the cosmic speed limit of C has been slowed.


RE: Didn't we just...
By FaaR on 7/19/2010 6:56:22 PM , Rating: 2
From what I understand, black holes do not slow down light per se. Rather, space-time inside the event horizon curves too much for light to escape from within (and it curves infinitely inside the black hole itself; ie it has zero surface area despite having perhaps billions of solar masses).


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