This brilliant image shows a gamma-ray burst. The Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission created the image. Discovered thirty years ago, gamma-ray bursts continue to be a mystery to scientists. The burst shown here created as much energy in ten seconds as the Sun will in 10 billion years.
Click on image for full size
An Unexpected View
News story originally written on October 3, 1997
The NEAR (Near-Earth Asteroid Rendevous) spacecraft took a big step in figuring out the mysteries behind gamma-ray bursts. Gamma-rays are high-energy particles which come from these explosions.
It was an unexpected find. The NEAR spacecraft was on its way to visit an asteroid. Scientists decided that this would be a great time to activate the gamma-ray detector. This led to the first detection of a gamma-ray burst on September 15. Six more bursts have been detected since then.
The NEAR spacecraft isn't alone in its observations. These bursts have been confirmed by the Ulysses spacecraft which is in orbit about the Sun and the Wind spacecraft orbiting the Earth.
Gamma-ray bursts are one of the true mysteries in astrophysics. They were discovered over 30 years ago. Scientists can't figure out what makes these bursts of gamma-rays or where they are coming from. Hopefully, with the help of the NEAR spacecraft, scientists will be able to solve the mysteries that lie behind these bursts.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, ranging from seismology
, rocks and minerals
, and Earth system science
You might also be interested in:
It was another exciting and frustrating year for the space science program. It seemed that every step forward led to one backwards. Either way, NASA led the way to a great century of discovery. Unfortunately,...more
The Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on October 29th at 2:19 p.m. EST. The weather was great as Discovery took 8 1/2 minutes to reach orbit. This was the United States' 123rd...more
A moon was discovered orbiting the asteroid, Eugenia. This is only the second time in history that a satellite has been seen circling an asteroid. A special mirror allowed scientists to find the moon...more
Will Russia ever put the service module for the International Space Station in space? NASA officials want an answer from the Russian government. The necessary service module is currently waiting to be...more
A coronal mass ejection (CME) happened on the Sun early last month. The material that was thrown out from this explosion passed the ACE spacecraft. The SWICS instrument on ACE has produced a new and very...more
J.S. Maini of the Canadian Forest Service called forests the "heart and lungs of the world." This is because forests filter air and water pollution, absorb carbon dioxide, release oxygen, and maintain...more
In late April through mid-May 2002, all five naked-eye planets are visible at the same time in the night sky! This is includes Mercury which is generally very hard to see. You won't want to miss this!...more