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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 snakeInTheGrass on 7/19/2010 4:24:58 PM , Rating: 1
Paper-thin assumption has to be one of the funniest ways I've ever heard of to explain away actual measurements in possible favor of religious (paper) texts. I know which I find paper thin. LOL. ;)

I think you are correct in that measurements are being refined all the time (look at Hubbles measurements of galactic distances, the amount of mass needed to hold galaxies together as they are seen, etc.), new discoveries are changing how we interpret results (the telescope demonstrated that the 'perfect' celestial spheres were anything but...), etc., but with all of those caveats I'm certain that trying to figure out evidence is 'light years' ahead of trying to look at old creation myths as a basis for understanding the universe. Is String Theory correct? It's a theory. Can we ever know everything? Very unlikely.

You're also right that you can point out any evidence you want, and many people will go on believing what they want - maybe even most, if the numbers that believe in completely unobservable and fantastical stories are to be believed. Sadly it's very difficult to un-condition minds that have been raised with bizarre and illogical concepts as 'real' and expect them to easily shed those preconceptions, even more so when it is strongly encouraged not to dis-believe and that 'faith' in illogical things is somehow a positive thing.

And people can read that as justifying their own positions as well. ;)


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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