image 1995/icon95.jpg

The Distance Scale to Gamma-Ray Bursts Great Debate in 1995

In April 1920, Harlow Shapley and Heber D. Curtis first debated The Scale of the Universe in the main auditorium of Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. In April 1995, this debate was commemorated by holding another debate on a topic with marked similarities. In 1995, the distance scale to gamma-ray bursts were as uncertain as the distance scale to spiral nebulae was in 1920. Evidence appeared to be mounting that GRBs occur in our Galaxy, but conflicting evidence also appeared to be mounting that GRBs occur at cosmological distances. Therefore, at this debate, Lamb and Paczynski publicly disagreed, and each displayed evidence and reasoning on why one distance scale should be preferred over the other.

Debate Proceedings: Six published papers from the diamond jubilee debate appeared in the 1995 December Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Included are the two introductory talks, an opening by one of the organizers, and a closing by the moderator.
An Introduction by Robert Nemiroff
The 1920 Shapley-Curtis Discussion: Background, Issues, And Outcome by Virginia Trimble
Gamma-Ray Bursts: An Overview by Gerald Fishman
How Far Away Are Gamma-Ray Bursters? by Bohdan Paczynski
The Distance Scale To Gamma-Ray Bursts by Donald Q. Lamb
Concluding Remarks by Martin Rees

About the 1995 Debate: Background information about the 1995 debate is given below.
The Program distributed at the 1995 Diamond Jubilee Debate. The program includes an introduction, the schedule of events, and a brief profile of all the program participants.
Images from the debate.
Comments about the debate. Comments from people who attended the debate are being compiled. Some comments are available - updated June 16, 1995.

Scientific Background: Below find links and lists intended for students, educators, and the generally inquisitive.
A Brief History of the Discovery of Cosmic Gamma-Ray Bursts by J. T. Bonnell
A short bibliography for the 1995 debate. Some of these articles are highly technical in nature.
A Glossary of terms used in the 1995 debate.
Gamma Ray Bursts from the Unknown an Astronomy Picture of the Day describing the great "GRB" mystery. Follow the links to find more information.
Optical Transient Near GRB970508 Shows Distant Redshift an APOD describing how a solution to this mystery may have now been found.
Brighter Than a Million Galaxies press releases from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center describing recent events.

Return to Great Debates in Astronomy Page