Research NewsAstronomy

Gamma Rays Open a View Down a Cosmic Gun Barrel

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Science  14 Nov 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5341, pp. 1225
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5341.1225

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Summary

A blazar--a jet of material aimed at Earth from the center of a distant galaxy--fired a volley of radiation straight into astronomers' detectors early this year. By tracking the flashes of light produced when high-energy gamma rays from the blazar smashed into Earth's atmosphere, several groups watched as its brilliance in high-energy gamma rays sporadically flared to levels equivalent to 10 billion suns. To theorists, features of the outburst imply that the radiation's ultimate power source is a beam of charged particles accelerated to nearly the speed of light within a small, magnetized region.

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