Some of the most powerful explosions in the universe could be 10 times as abundant as astronomers had assumed. That suggestion comes from two new studies indicating that many gamma-ray bursts—intense flashes of gamma-ray photons—go undetected because they don't pack quite as much punch as do the bursts that astronomers have recorded for years.
According to a leading theory, gamma-ray bursts arise when a dying star collapses to become a rotating black hole or a neutron star. The gamma rays emerge when particles jetting from a doughnut-shaped disk surrounding the collapsed star plow into surrounding space.
In the most basic version of that scenario, all gamma-ray bursts have ab