Glossary term: Gamma Ray Burst

Description: Gamma ray bursts are short bursts of gamma rays. These were first detected by satellites monitoring the Earth for covert nuclear weapons tests. However, their origin was found to lie in outer space, indeed beyond our Galaxy. Most gamma ray bursts are thought to result from supernova explosions and some might be the result of two neutron stars in a binary system merging together. These huge explosions produce two focused jets of material. Highly energetic gamma rays are also focused along these jets. We only see a gamma ray burst if, by chance, one of the jets is pointed towards Earth. Observations of optical and X-ray counterparts to gamma ray bursts have shown that these explosions are found in other galaxies, most very distant from the Earth.

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Term and definition status: This term and its definition have been approved by a research astronomer and a teacher

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