Hunting cosmic explosions
Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Gamma-ray bursts are the most violent and energetic explosions in the universe, each emitting as much energy as 100 million billion Suns. Astronomers now think that these awesome explosions occur when stars die
There is a Persian fairytale about the three princes of Serendip -- the island in the Indian Ocean that is now known as Sri Lanka. The princes were seasoned travellers who made a series of astonishing discoveries through good fortune alone. Their luck was so amazing that we now use the word "serendipity" to describe what happens when we find something unexpectedly. As the discovery of gamma-ray bursts makes clear, serendipity often plays a key role in science.
The story began in 1963 when the world's leading nations signed the nuclear test-ban treaty, which sought to prevent nuclear bombs from being exploded underwater or above ground. That year the US also launched the first of a series of satellites called the Velas -- named after the Spanish for "watchmen" -- that were designed to monitor radiation from clandestine nuclear explosions. Like the legendary princes of Serendip, the Velas made an unexpected discovery.
Full Article : physicsweb.org
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