The Astrophysics Spectator

Issue 1.5, November 3, 2004

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November 3, 2004

Gamma-ray bursts have been a transcendent topic of research for over a quarter of a century, but only now, through multiwavelength observations, is a coherent picture emerging of one of their progenitors, core-collapse supernovae in distant galaxies. Gamma-ray bursts are interesting for what they imply about the physics of stellar collapse, they are interesting for the physics that creates the phenomenon, and they are interesting for their possible application to the study of cosmology. They are as raw an application of special relativity as you will find in astrophysics, and they are the reason behind the Swift mission, which has a current launch date of November 11

In the commentary section I write about two things dear to my heart: baseball and the philosophy of science.

Jim Brainerd


Flyby of Titan (October 28, 2004). The Cassini spacecraft flew by Titan, Saturn's largest moon, at 15:30 UTC on October 26 Cassini came within 1,174 km of Titan's surface, and during this time observed Titan with eleven of its twelve instruments. This is the closest flyby of Titan by any spacecraft. (continue)

Support for a theory of type 1a supernovae (October 27, 2004). Researchers announced the discovery of a companion star to the presumed white dwarf that produced the Tycho renmant. The discovery supports the theory that type 1a supernovae are produced by the thermonuclear explosion of a white dwarf pushed over the Chandrasekhar mass limit through accretion of material from a companion star. (continue)

More news.


Transcendence. We are driven to achieve high purposes, whether they are to win the World Series or to understand the nature of the universe. These transcendent goals are concoctions of our mind. (continue)

More commentaries.

New Background

Observational Effects of Special Relativity. In special relativity, the lengths contract, times dilate, and photons redshift. But what is sometimes overlooked in the introductory discussions of special relativity is that it take time for light to reach us. This page discusses what an object traveling at close to the speed of light actually looks like. (continue)

Gamma-ray Bursts. Gamma-ray bursts are their name implies: bursts of gamma-rays that last from much less than a second to several thousand seconds. They come from all directions, and the longer bursts of the class are now known to come from core-collapse supernovae in the most distant galaxies. The page discusses the current understanding of these exotic events. (continue)

New Current Research

Gamma-ray Burst Experiments. Two experiments have been designed specifically to hunt gamma-ray bursts: the currently orbiting HETE 2, and the soon to be orbiting Swift. These experiments are designed to precisely locate the source of an observed gamma-ray burst so that multiple instruments can observe the evolution of the source. (continue)


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