Gamma-Ray Bursts

grb_image_en_smIn 1997, a host of ground-based and space telescopes confirmed that gamma-ray bursts – fleeting blasts of high energy radiation – are nature’s biggest explosions. The Italian-Dutch satellite BeppoSAX pin-pointed the February 28 burst, and Earth-based optical instruments were then able to spot its faint host galaxy several billion light-years from our planet. A typical gamma-ray burst radiates more energy in a few seconds than the Sun will in its entire 10 billion year lifetime. A gamma-ray burst (GRB) occurring in our own galaxy could decimate life on Earth, destroying the ozone layer, triggering climate change and drastically altering life’s cycle. However, the good news is that the likelihood of a natural disaster due to a GRB is much lower than previously thought.