Making gamma ray bursts work for you!

Seminars at Uni kicked off today with a talk about gamma ray bursts. Which was very cool. The concept of a collapsing black hole at the core of a star, giving out enough energy to punch two beams out of the star before triggering a supernova sounds… well… rather melodramatic. All the same, that’s a leading theory for what causes one type of gamma ray burst.

I always enjoy listening to theories that concern things we don’t understand. They’re always really quite insightful!

So we may not know exactly what the mysterious gamma ray bursts are exactly, but there is one very interesting thing about them. Simply put, if you’re quick enough to catch one, you can use them as a background light source. The afterglow of a GRB emits right the way down the full EM spectrum, after all. In other words, if you take the spectrum of a gamma ray burst, everything between you and it will show up in the light. And gamma ray bursts give out a lot of light. Enough light to see it clearly in the sky, brighter than several nearby stars? That’s a lot of light.

It’s interesting to consider light from a gamma ray burst illuminating interstellar chemicals that formed billions of years ago. Intergalactic chemicals even. I doubt very much has been written about the chemistry of the intergalactic medium. Kinda makes you wonder what might be out there…

Interestingly, all the data collected on these fearsome astrophysical beasts by NASA’s Swift mission is publicly available. I might have to have a browse sometime…
(I’ve been linking to a lot of NASA missions here lately, haven’t I…?)

About Invader Xan

Molecular astrophysicist, usually found writing frenziedly, staring at the sky, or drinking mojitos.
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