Big Flash: Record-breaking explosion in outer space

9:54am, February 23, 2005

Astronomers report the brightest flash of light ever recorded from beyond the solar system. In just 0.2 second on Dec. 27, 2004, spacecraft detected a stellar outburst that radiated as much energy as the sun emits in 250,000 years.

But breaking a record wasn't the only reason that astronomers were beaming at a NASA press briefing last week. They may also have solved a mystery. By tracing the outburst to a magnetar, the rare type of star with the strongest magnetic field known, the scientists may be able to account for a puzzling group of extremely short-lived gamma-ray bursts from distant galaxies.

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