Gamma-ray bursts reveal distant galaxies

10:51am, April 25, 2001

A brilliant flash of high-energy radiation recorded on Feb. 22 lasted for less

than a minute. But this gamma-ray burst, one of the brightest ever detected, is

providing the strongest evidence so far that these cosmic flashbulbs originate in

star-forming regions of distant galaxies and are generated by the explosive death

of massive stars.

The findings support the notion that these brilliant bursts and their afterglows

can enable astronomers to study galaxies that lie too far away and are too dusty

for the scientists to easily observe.

The Feb. 22 burst and its X-ray afterglow, first detected by the Italian satellite

BeppoSAX, was also examined by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. The burst

originated in a galaxy some 8 billion light-years from Earth.

A gamma-ray burst produces a blast of material that expands into surrounding space

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