News of the WeekAstrophysics

Distant Star's Radiation Jolts Earth's Atmosphere

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Science  02 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5386, pp. 24
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5386.24a

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On 27 August at about 3:22 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time, a tidal wave of x-ray and gamma ray radiation washed over Earth, turning night to day in the upper atmosphere and shocking some satellite instruments into a self-preserving "safe hold" mode. The burst was reported at a NASA press conference in Washington, D.C., last Tuesday, but it apparently got its start 20,000 years ago and as many light-years away, when a superdense, supermagnetized neutron star suffered a massive "star-quake."