Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

October 1, 1996

BATSE's Biggest Gamma Ray Burst (Yet)
G. Fishman and the BATSE Team, CGRO, MSFC, NASA

Explanation: Something big exploded but astronomers have no idea what. On September 24th, the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) onboard the orbiting Compton Gamma Ray Observatory recorded the most intense gamma ray burst in its five year history. During its mission, BATSE has recorded many gamma ray bursts - about one per day, but none were this powerful. Since their discovery over 25 years ago, the origin and even distance to gamma ray bursts remains hotly debated. Bursts are surely mysterious phenomena: they flash into existence suddenly dominating the entire gamma-ray sky, then typically fade in a few seconds never to be seen again. It is possible that this intense wave of gamma radiation caused other satellites to glitch and may even have been the cause of unusual noise in the Earth's atmosphere. If you know of such an anomaly, please report it.

Tomorrow's picture: Orion's Horsehead Nebula

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