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January 25, 1999
Gamma-ray bursts rule the high-energy sky and
Saturday another brief, intense flash of gamma-rays from
the cosmos triggered space-based detectors.
The orbiting Compton Observatory's
BATSE instrument quickly
relayed the burst's approximate location to
fast-slewing, ground-based cameras
primed to search for an elusive optical flash.
The result --
the GCN coordinated
ROTSE-I telephoto array recorded a
only 22 seconds after the burst trigger.
Larger telescopes too captured the burster's optical counterpart and
at right is an image identifying the candidate from
the 60 inch Palomar reflector.
At left is a prior sky survey image of the region which
astonishingly shows a discernible smudge near the same position,
likely the burster's host galaxy.
The galaxy and bright burst suggest that this is the closest
yet localized gamma-ray burst!
Still, believed to be the most
powerful explosions in the Universe,
the source of the incredible energy of gamma-ray bursts remains
Update: Reported redshift measurements now suggest that the burst is instead a very distant one. The galaxy in the survey image may not be the gamma-ray burst host but a foreground galaxy which by chance lies along the line of sight from Earth to the burster.
Authors & editors:
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.