No sooner had NASA’s Swift X-Ray Telescope caught the record-breaking Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) in the actÂ on Wednesday (March 19th), the worlds telescopes swung toward the constellation of BoÃ¶tes to watch the afterglow of this massive explosion. One instrument in a Chile observatory was observing in Swift’s field of view at the time of the blast and has put together a short frame-by-frame video of the event. So if you missed this historic burst from 7.5 billion years ago (which you probably did!) you can watch it now…
Las Campanas Observatory is located high in the Chilean mountains and was used to observe the afterglow of the massive GRB observed at 2:12 am (EDT) last Wednesday. The Polish instrument called “Pi of the Sky”, a GRB detector array of cameras looking out for optical flashes (or transients) in the night sky. This ground-based instrument was lucky. Taking continuous shots in its wide field of view, the instrument’s automatic flash recognition algorithm detected the explosion two seconds before Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). The Polish research group has released the chain of events in the form of an animation with frames 10 seconds apart (shown below). The blast decayed from the brightness of a 5 magnitude star to 11th magnitude over four minutes, allowing it to be seen by the naked eye when it was at its brightest.
One of the most significant results to come out of this multi-instrument observation of this event is that with 10 seconds of precision, the optical emission and gamma-ray emission from a GRB are simultaneous.
The “Pie in the Sky” project is unique in that it surveys the sky on the lookout for GRBs without depending on satellites. It does however use satellite indicators of GRB flashes to confirm its observations. By observing such a wide field of view, taking continuous 10s-interval shots of the sky, the instrument can observe the GRB in the very early stages of the blast.
GRBs are of massive interest to scientists. Generally, GRBs lasting for longer than two seconds are attributed to massive stars collapsing and forming black holes. Therefore observing the first two minutes of the blast and afterglow provides valuable information about black hole formation.
Source: Pie of the Sky