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GRB 991216, was observed on December 16, 1999. Its appearance coincided with the 229th anniversary of Ludwig Beethoven’s birth, so it was given the nickname Beethoven Burst by Dr. Brad Schaefer.
A gamma-ray burst is a luminous flash that is generally associated with an explosion in a distant galaxy. The initial flash emits gamma rays, but the longer lasting ”afterglow” is emitted in longer wavelengths like X-rays, ultraviolet, optical, and infrared, as well as radio waves.
The Beethoven Burst is significant because it reached an apparent magnitude of 18.7. That is one of the brightest bursts ever detected. The brightness of the bursts is especially awesome considering it was emitted 10 billion light years from Earth. It is ranked as the second most powerful burst ever detected by the Burst and Transient Source Experiment(BATSE). After analyzing the burst, scientists are convinced that gamma ray bursts are produced by a hypernova or the collision and merger of two black holes.
Scientists were able to pinpoint the location of the burst in less than four hours. This quick pinpointing allowed astronomers to conduct follow up studies using optical and X-ray telescopes. The Beethoven Burst was further studied by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, the MDM Observatory, and the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph aboard the Hubble Space Telescope.
We have written many articles about gamma ray burst for Universe Today. Here’s an article about gamma ray bursts, and here’s an article about gamma ray burst from the edge of the universe.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Gamma Ray Burst. Listen here, Episode 36: Gamma Ray Bursts.