Gamma-ray Burstsare in top 100 - Mystery makes Discover magazines top 100 stories for the year
And the Top 10
December 10, 1997
Updated Dec. 19, 1997
Since the late 1960s, scientists have puzzled over the cause of bursts of gamma ray energy that appear at random and without any apparent connection to known objects in the sky. With the Burst and Transience Source Experiment (BATSE) aboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have recorded and analyzed almost 2,000 bursts since the CGRO's launch in 1991.
The results provide strong indications that these bursts originate from the remotest parts of the universe, at distances of billions of light years from Earth. These conclusions contradict theories that the bursts must somehow be associated within or just outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy.
In its January 1998 issue, Discover lists its Top 100 science stories for 1997. On page 30, writer Sam Flamsteed writes "It turns out they are truly titanic." This refers to the implication that if bursts are at cosmological distances, then each burst must release about as much energy in 10 seconds as our Sun emits in its entire lifetime.
In its Dec. 19 issue, Science notes that the discovery of optical counterparts - done by NASA/Marshall scientists - is a "mixture of good science and good luck [that] promises to open a new window on an intriguing mystery."
For the 1997 headlines that helped make the gamma-ray burst quest a winner, read:
- Gamma-Ray Bursts Thought to be from Edge of Universe, January 15, 1997
- Discovery May Be "Smoking Gun" in Gamma Ray Burst Mystery, March 31, 1997
- Counterpart Discoveries Show Gamma-Ray Bursts ARE Cosmological, June 11, 1997
- Hubble Confirms Fading Burst Source, and news from the 4th Huntsville Gamma Ray Burst Symposium, September 17, 1997 (Note: This page has links to more stories from the symposium)