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FOR KIDS: Watching deep-space fireworks

An orbiting telescope records the universe’s most powerful explosions

Space is full of fireworks: Galaxies smash into each other, dying stars explode and high-energy particles race toward us at the speed of light. The most powerful explosions in the universe are brilliant flashes of light called gamma-ray bursts. If you happened to fly through the neighborhood of a gamma-ray burst, you couldn’t miss the flare — it would be brighter than a million trillion suns.

On September 15, 2008, a gamma-ray burst in the constellation Carina (which is best seen from the Southern Hemisphere) was recorded. This February, after studying the data, astronomers announced the gamma-ray burst was the most energetic explosion ever seen.

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