Search Narrows for Gamma-Ray Bursts

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Science  04 Oct 1996:
Vol. 274, Issue 5284, pp. 38
DOI: 10.1126/science.274.5284.38


For more than 30 years, astronomers have been unable to explain the mysterious bursts of gamma rays that occur approximately once a day in random positions across the sky. One problem is that gamma-ray cameras can't pin down the direction of a burst to less than a few degrees. But now a simultaneous sighting by an x-ray and a gamma-ray camera on board the Italian-Dutch Beppo-SAX satellite has narrowed the search. Because x-ray cameras offer much sharper angular resolution than do gamma-ray detectors, the 20 July double sighting pinned down the position of the burst to an area smaller than the full moon. Astronomers are now scouring this patch of sky, hoping to find an optical or radio "counterpart."