Gamma Ray Bursts

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Described as the most destructive force in the Universe, Gamma Ray Bursts are only a recent discovery.

However it quickly became apparent that GRB’s carry with them the power to vaporise everything within hundreds of light years.

Imagine an explosion so fierce and intense that it carries with it the power to destroy everything in its path for hundreds if not thousands of light years away. No this isn’t the realms of science fiction but the amazing world of Gamma Ray Bursts.

Astonishing discovery.

Gamma Ray Bursts, or GRBs as they are otherwise known were first detected during the late 1960’s. US monitoring equipment on a space satellite set up to detect Soviet nuclear weapons testing began to notice intense gamma ray bursts that were hard to explain.

For a long time it also proved impossible to determine the origin of these bursts. Then in the last decade of the 20th century astronomers made the astonishing discovery that these phenomenal bursts of radiation emanated from the observable extremities of the known Universe.

Nothing rare.

Dramatic though the discovery of Gamma Ray bursts was, there is nothing particularly rare about them since they were, and continue to be spotted at a rate of around one a day. But what were these bursts? They were obviously some form of intense radiation coming from an unimaginably distant location but how could they be explained?

Very quickly astronomers began to surmise that GRBs were exploding stars. These are usually known as supernovas but GRBs were in a whole new category and made even the tremendous force of a supernova look minuscule by comparison. Scientists have now speculated that Gamma Ray Bursts may be associated with black holes capable of releasing a fireball of energy into a high pressure jet that in turn creates the shock waves that lead to the formation of Gamma Rays.

Long and short duration.

For all their astonishing power GRBs are of extremely short duration and fall into two categories. The first involves those with an average of just a third of a second and others with a much longer average span of 30 seconds. Astronomers then conjectured that different causal forces lay behind the origin of the two categories. As it is there is still a huge amount we do not understand about GRB’s, but one thing we do know for sure is the great damage they would be capable of causing.

Deadly consequences.

Since most GRBs are at the extremities of the Universe and occurred when the Earth was very young there is seemingly nothing to worry about. Yet the very nature of GRBs mean that an explosion at even several thousand light years distance could prove deadly to all life on Earth. Indeed some scientists believe that GRBs were responsible for at least some of the frequent mass extinction’s that have swept the planet over millions of years. For more on the possibly drastic implications that GRB’s could hold for our planet please turn to the accompanying link:

http://www.nature.com/nsu/030922/030922-7.html

Our Sun – the ultimate end!

For the ultimate disaster representing the End of the World we should look no further than our own Sun. Eventually – in many millions of years – this too will erupt in a vast fireball and completely vaporise our planet. This may be a long time in the future but the Sun has shown recent signs of an increase in activity.

For more on this please turn to our special topic.

The Sun is getting stronger.

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