Gamma-Ray Bursts explained

I have, from time to time, mentioned the potentially lethal, if spectacular, phenomenon known as a Gamma-Ray Burst in my occasional science posts.  By coincidence, the BBC have online digestible clips of past Horizon programmes.  Including this informative clip from 2001 explaining Gamma-Ray Bursts in stellar nurseries, with a suitably ominous narration.  Enjoy!  And, let’s be careful out there…

Fermi Finds Galactic Gamma-ray-emitting Bubbles

Fascinating discovery by Nasa’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which achieved first light in August 2008.  Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. From the Nasa press release NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy. “What we see are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and …

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“the violent and unpredictable gamma ray universe.”

I mentioned the launch of Nasa’s new GLAST telescope previously and they’ve now released the first light images. Oh, and they’ve renamed it the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope – a short history of telescopic observations here. There’s a dynamic image of the Vela pulsar too – which beams radiation every 89 milliseconds as it spins. No mention, though, of the discovery of pulsars by Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell.. or her part in Pluto’s downfall.. [Image Credit: NASA/DOE/International LAT Team]

Revisiting Nuclear Power : Part 1 : how it works

It can have escaped few of us that the effects of the war in Ukraine and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the ongoing issue of climate change, have led to renewed interest in the possibilities offered by nuclear power and how it can help to solve the problems governments around the world are facing. This is leading to a re-evaluation of the case for nuclear, and, hopefully, objective consideration of its strengths and weaknesses. I believe that it …

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Is May suddenly beginning to take seriously an alternative to the backstop?

Who’s the bloke in the flat cap with IDS and Peter Lilley? Yes! It’s our very own David Trimble leaving Downing St last night after this gang of three veterans made a last minute pitch for a different border solution to that agreed between the EU and Theresa May. Lilley, a Thatcher disciple and former trade secretary refused to reveal what went on  the Today programme this morning. Now No 10 tells us that May listened and the cabinet discussed …

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Bovine TB and badgers: “This approach has not been tried anywhere else…”

The different approaches of the various administrations in the UK and Ireland to attempting to eradicate bovine tuberculosis [TB] in wild animals, specifically badgers, are worth noting.  They are all in response to the EU Directive 64/432/EEC which, as the Welsh adminstration’s website notes, “requires Member States to provide plans showing how they will eradicate bovine TB in cattle.” In England, the UK government is pressing ahead with badger culling, despite the opposition of animal welfare groups like the RSPCA. In Wales, the Welsh …

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The Universe at a glance…

Well, several glances actually…  As spotted by the Guardian blog’s Tom McCarthy, NASA has released a new atlas and catalog of the entire infrared sky “showing more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.”  And an impressive view it is. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA]   From the Nasa press release The sky can be thought of as a sphere that surrounds us in three dimensions. To make a map of …

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The Galactic Centre Revisited

While waiting, hopefully, for the arrival of the James Webb Space Telescope, here’s a short video of what the current space telescopes, particularly Nasa’s Spitzer and ESA’s Herschel, have seen at the centre of our galaxy.  The above image is a three-color composite, showing infrared observations from two of Spitzer instruments. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech].  Video from SpitzerSpaceCenter. As well as the twisted ring of very dense and cold gas and dust at the galactic centre, there have been other amazing structures observed.  Then there are the “colossal swathes of …

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Clearing the cosmic fog

As the BBC noted, astronomers using ESO’s Very Large Telescope [VLT] have confirmed that galaxy UDFy-38135539, one of several candidates identified in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field (UDF) image of the Fornax Constellation acquired with the telescope’s new Wide Field Camera 3 last year, is the most distant galaxy ever detected. [Image credit: NASA, ESA, G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory and University of California, Santa Cruz) and the HUDF09 Team] Spectroscopic analysis of data collected during a 16 hour observation using the VLT identified a red shift …

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“More than 12 billion years of cosmic history..”

Image credit: NASA, ESA, et al. Nasa’s shiny new Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer [WISE] may have just opened its eyes for the first time, but the refurbished Hubble Space Telescope is proving there’s life in the old dog yet. They’ve just released a panoramic, full-color view of thousands of galaxies in various stages of assembly made from mosaics taken in September and October 2009 with the newly installed Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) and in 2004 with the Advanced Camera …

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“the last blank bit of the map of the Universe”

[Image Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler] The Irish Times follows the BBC in reporting the publication in Nature of detailed observations of the most distant cosmic object to be detected by telescope, GRB 090423 – a gamma ray burst with a red-shift of 8.2, corresponding to a distance of around 13.035 billion light years, when the Universe was only 630 million years old. It’s confirmation of the initial findings noted back in April this year – when I incorrectly attributed the sighting …

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“a true blast from the past..”

[Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]. I had mentioned just how really big space is. Left is an image of M33, one of our closest galactic neighbours at just 2.9 million light-years away, viewed in ultraviolet – to show recent star formation – by the Galaxy Evolution Explorer, celebrating 6 years in operation, and in infrared by the Spitzer Space Telescope. Below is an image of one of our most distant relatives, also from Spitzer. With a red shift of 8.2, corresponding to …

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“In space nobody can hear you scream..”

Some science links to while away a Friday afternoon.. The BBC picks up on a Science Journal report on results from the French Corot space telescope and they have samples of the stellar sounds recorded. They also point to the fascinating Jodcast [Now on YouTube – Ed] where, in the August edition, Dr Tim O’Brien presented his favourite sounds from space [mp3 file] – including the Vela pulsar imaged here. And, in the Jodcast archive, there’s an interview with our …

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Incoming!

I just got this news alert from the Space Weather website – “ASTEROID 2008 TC3: A small, newly-discovered asteroid named 2008 TC3 is approaching Earth and chances are good that it will hit. Measuring only a few meters across, the space rock poses no threat to people or structures on the ground, but it should create a spectacular fireball, releasing about a kiloton of energy as it disintegrates and explodes in the high atmosphere. At least one expert estimates that …

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“a curved wall of 10,000[degree] plasma about 90,000 km long and 30,000 km tall..”

Despite a highly successful switching-on day the Large Hadron Collider at Cern will be out of action for a minimum of two months after a technnical fault resulted in a large helium leak into the tunnel. But there’s plenty of other science out there. And telescopes are responsible for a lot of it. NASA’s Swift satellite has spotted another of those Gamma Ray Bursts. This time at the relatively safe distance of 12.8 billion light-years away. Meanwhile NASA’s Spitzer Space …

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“We really hit the jackpot with this one..”

Whilst I’m on a science theme.. We knew the gamma-ray universe was violent but, as NASA reports, “Data from satellites and observatories around the globe show a jet from a powerful stellar explosion witnessed March 19 was aimed almost directly at Earth”. As this more detailed report notes – “Maybe every gamma-ray burst contains a narrow jet, too, but astronomers miss them because we don’t see them head-on.” And the New Scientist has a demonstrative animation. Just be thankful that …

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Pluto, plutoids.. and telescopes

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) attempt to spare Pluto’s blushes after its 2006 annus horribilis – by defining all transneptunian dwarf planets as plutoids – hasn’t gone down well with those still honking for its return to full planet status, as the BBC reports here. Alan Stern, a former Nasa space sciences chief and principal investigator on a mission to Pluto, was scathing in his condemnation of the IAU. “It’s just some people in a smoke-filled room who dreamed it …

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