Brightest star explosion seen blinds satellite

WASHINGTON Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:32am IST

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The brightest explosion of a star ever seen temporarily blinded a satellite set up to watch such events, astronomers said on Wednesday.

The gamma-ray burst and explosion of X-rays that followed came from a star that died 5 billion years ago, far beyond our own Milky Way galaxy, NASA and British scientists said. It took this long for the radiation to reach the Swift orbiting observatory.

The bright X-ray burst blinded Swift on June 21, and the observatory's software ignored it as if it were an anomaly, the astronomers said.

"The intensity of these X-rays was unexpected and unprecedented," Neil Gehrels, Swift's principal investigator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

Gehrels said the burst, named GRB 100621A, is the brightest X-ray source that Swift has detected since it started looking for them in 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," Gehrels said.

"The burst was so bright when it first erupted that our data-analysis software shut down," said Phil Evans of Britain's University of Leicester, who discovered the burst when he was going through some recorded data from Swift.

"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."

When a star explodes, radiation travels at the speed of light in all directions. Gamma rays reach Earth first, followed by X-rays.

This particular one was 140 times brighter than the brightest continuous X-ray source in the sky -- a nearby neutron star.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

EBOLA OUTBREAK

REUTERS SHOWCASE

HK Protest

HK Protest

Prolonged Hong Kong protest could harm financial image, says envoy.  Full Article 

Climate Change

Climate Change

Cap on liability for climate damage worth a look - expert.  Full Article 

Caught in Korea

Caught in Korea

Third American held in N.Korea appeals to U.S. for help - report.  Full Article 

Expanding Range

Expanding Range

North Korea, already under UN sanctions, prepares launch site for longer-range rockets - report.  Full Article 

Syria Crisis

Syria Crisis

Massacre in Syrian Kurdish town would end PKK's peace talks with Turkey - Ocalan.  Full Article 

Road Offences

Road Offences

France's Le Pen loses driving licence, but says not her fault.  Full Article 

Nuclear Deal

Nuclear Deal

Israel's Netanyahu to Obama: Don't allow Iran deal that leaves it at nuclear threshold.  Full Article 

Germany Politics

Germany Politics

German defence crisis puts potential Merkel successor in hot seat .  Full Article 

Peace Conference

Peace Conference

Nobel Laureates condemn South Africa visa denial to Dalai Lama.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage