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Gamma-ray Bursts (Illustrations)

Gamma-Ray Burst
1. Illustration of a Gamma-Ray Burst
Gamma-ray bursts are common, yet random, and fleeting events that have mystified astronomers since their discovery in the late 1960s. Many scientists say longer bursts (more than four seconds in duration) are caused by massive star explosions; shorter bursts (less than two seconds in duration) are caused by mergers of binary systems with black holes or neutron stars. While uncertainty remains, most scientists say in either scenario a new black hole is born. (Illustration: NASA/D.Berry)

View the animation

Neutron Stars
2. Illustration of Colliding Neutron Stars
The most likely explanation for GRB 050709 is that it was produced by a collision of two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole. Such a collision would result in the formation of a black hole (or a larger black hole), and could generate a beam of high-energy particles that could account for the powerful gamma-ray pulse as well as observed radio, optical and X-ray afterglows. (Credit: NASA/D.Berry)

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GRB 050709
3. Illustration of GRB 050709's Location
Gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions known, were first detected in the late 1960s. They are random, fleeting, and can occur from any region of the sky. Try finding the location of a camera flash somewhere in a vast sports stadium and you'll have a sense of the challenge facing gamma-ray burst hunters. Solving this mystery took unprecedented coordination among scientists using a multitude of ground-based telescopes and NASA satellites. This illustration shows the location of GRB 050709.
(Illustration: NASA/D.Berry)

Related Photo Album

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4. Gamma-ray Burst
A 21-hour Chandra observation of the afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 020813 revealed an overabundance of elements characteristically ejected by the supernova explosion of a massive star. (Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

Photo Album: GRB 020813

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5. Model of a Gamma-ray Burst
Many scientists believe that gamma-ray bursts are caused by jets of high-energy particles from a rapidly rotating black hole that interacts with surrounding material. This artist's rendering depicts this model (not to scale), where the black hole is produced by the collapse of a massive star's core.
(Illustration: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

Photo Album: GRB 031203