An illuminating blast from the Universe’s past

Last week ESO, the European Southern Observatory, released a press release about their observations of the gamma-ray burst GRB 080319B – one the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever seen – that occurred in March of this year. The press release covers the results of a new investigation into the burst. Astronomers who studied the burst have come to a startling conclusion about its orientation! From the press release:

We conclude that the burst’s extraordinary brightness arose from a jet that shot material almost directly towards Earth at almost the speed of light,” says Guido Chincarini, a member of the team.

Above: Artist’s impression of GRB 080319B. Credit ESO

I was asked by the press team at the ESO headquarters, in Germany, to write the background story of that burst, including the many different observations made by telescopes around the world and how and when it appeared. The finished article has now been posted alongside the release as a two page pdf. You can read the ESO press release here and also download my feature story on GRB 080319B here (pdf download in link).

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