NAM's Gamma-ray bursts
In Nial Tanvir's excellent talk yesterday on gamma ray bursts he reminded us that on the last day of the National Astronomy Meeting 2009, the most distant gamma ray burst detected to date (GRB 090423) was picked up by the Swift satellite, triggering an observing campaign from observatories located all over the world. What will this NAM have in store? Well, he announced that the Faulkes Telescope South had picked up a GRB just the evening before, that the UKIRT telescope was now observing!
Data from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (blue, green) and X-Ray (orange and red) telescopes are merged in this image. No visible light accompanied the burst, which alone suggests great distance. The image is 6.3 arcminutes across. Image: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler. Read our news stories on GRB 090423:
Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, emanate from a star that has run out of its nuclear fuel, collapsing into a black hole or neutron star and shooting out jets of radiation. These jets punch through layers of gas already expelled by the star, which interact to generate short-lived afterglows. Tanvir discussed the importance of GRBs as probes into the distant Universe - spectroscopic measurements can provide details of the chemical enrichment of the host star and the state of the intergalactic medium close to the burst. GRB 090423 was detected at a redshift of 8.2, some 13 billion light years way, highlighting the promise of GRBs for probing the very high redshift Universe.
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