Crab Nebula gamma ray burster!


The BBC (among others) is reporting on some surprising news. The long quiescent Crab Nebula (a supernova remnant from the 11th century explosion) emitted a large gamma ray burst recently.

“It seems to have come from a small area of the famous nebula, which is the wreckage from an exploded star.

The object has long been considered a steady source of light, but the Fermi telescope hints at greater activity.

The gamma-ray emission lasted for some six days, hitting levels 30 times higher than normal and varying at times from hour to hour.”

Read the full article here.

This is a big deal; one, it means that our understanding of neutron stars is going to need fixing and two, it means that we have a relatively close gamma ray burster site to study.

Gamma ray bursters are some of the most powerful objects in the sky. They’re seen isotropically distributed in the sky, which implies that they are mostly extra-galactic. (If they were primarily galactic, they’d be heavily concentrated in the plane of the Milky Way.) When they were first observed by secret nuclear test ban compliance measuring Defense Dept. satellites, they created quite the stir…

If a Gamma Ray burster goes off in our part of the Galaxy, there’s a good chance we’d be having some serious problems.

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...