Day: February 21, 2005

"Whoppingly Bright"

Dying Star Flares Up, Briefly Outshining Rest of Galaxy: “For a fraction of a second in December, a dying remnant of an exploded star let out of a burst of light that outshone the Milky Way’s other half-trillion stars combined, astronomers announced Friday.

Even on Earth, half a galaxy away, the starburst was one of the brightest objects ever observed in the sky, after the Sun and perhaps a few comets. The magnitude of the event caught most astronomers by surprise.

…No one on Earth directly saw the flare because most of the light was gamma rays, photons that are more energetic than X-rays and are blocked by the atmosphere. But the Dec. 27 pulse registered on instruments aboard 15 spacecraft, including NASA’s new Swift satellite, which was designed to record cosmic gamma rays and had been turned on just the week before.” (New York Times )