‘Gamma Ray Bursts and the Birth of Black Holes’, by Dr. Neil Gehrels, Chief of the Astroparticle Physics Laboratory, NASA - Goddard Space Flight Center. Co-recipient of the 2007 Rossi prize
Tuesday, September 25th, 2007, 6pm, Theatre B, Science Hub, UCD
Talk summary: Gamma-ray bursts are intense flashes of gamma rays coming from distant galaxies. They were discovered in the early 1970's by satellites monitoring the nuclear test ban treaty and have been studied ever since. The chase to observe them and understand their origin is a continuing adventure story in astronomical research. We now know that the bursts result from the birth of black holes in the implosion of massive stars. The creation of a gravitational singularity at the centre of the star has amazing consequences with central gas falling inward and high speed jets streaming outward. The resulting explosion is bright enough to be seen from the edges of the visible universe. The lecture will highlight discoveries by NASA's SWIFT observatory. This new satellite has the ability to rapidly re-point itself in the direction of a gamma ray flash and observe them with sensitive space telescopes.