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The Biggest Bangs: stories about Gamma Ray Bursts

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  • Richard Smith
    One good story is how a bunch of physicists and engineers built a system of satellites (Vela) to detect clandestine nuclear bomb tests in space. They didn t
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 2, 2002
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      One good story is how a bunch of physicists and engineers built a system of satellites
      (Vela) to detect clandestine nuclear bomb tests in space. They didn't find any bombs
      but beginning in 1967 discovered gamma-ray bursts, although they didn't realize what
      they were observing until 1972. They made a great astronomical discovery without
      realizing that they were doing astronomy.

      A great story is Carl Akerlof's discovery of the ``holy grail'' of gamma-ray burst astronomy---
      the visible light from a burst during the burst itself (not the afterglow). People had searched
      for this for 20 years until he succeeded in 1999. Part of the problem was that they didn't
      know how bright it would be. It turned out to be very bright, 9th magnitude from half-way
      across the Universe. That makes it about a million times more luminous than the Milky Way
      galaxy (for a few seconds)---we'd be cooked if one happened nearby. Akerlof had to overcome
      obstacles getting funded (his proposals were rejected) and a bitter fight with his closest
      collaborator (who made off with the hardware and became his competitor), before making
      this epochal discovery with a four-inch telescope (one of a cluster of four) made of
      a telephoto lens for a 35 mm camera. Finally, he had a stroke of luck---the burst he detected
      was barely inside the field of view, so he almost missed it. That was in 1999, and, so
      far, no one has found another one.

      Then there is the XYZ Affair, a truly byzantine story of back-stabbing. Details are in the book.
      jefftibb <jefftibb@...> wrote: Richard,

      Are there any stories in the book you could tell us?

      I'd love to hear more.



      ---------------------------------
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      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • jefftibb
      Kool. A major astronomical discovery made in 1999 with a 4 telescope! There is hope for us frustrated astronomers yet! ... system of satellites ... didn t
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 2, 2002
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        Kool.

        A major astronomical discovery made in 1999 with a 4" telescope!
        There is hope for us frustrated astronomers yet!



        --- In wannabeastronomers@y..., Richard Smith <smith10786@y...> wrote:
        >
        > One good story is how a bunch of physicists and engineers built a
        system of satellites
        > (Vela) to detect clandestine nuclear bomb tests in space. They
        didn't find any bombs
        > but beginning in 1967 discovered gamma-ray bursts, although they
        didn't realize what
        > they were observing until 1972. They made a great astronomical
        discovery without
        > realizing that they were doing astronomy.
        >
        > A great story is Carl Akerlof's discovery of the ``holy grail'' of
        gamma-ray burst astronomy---
        > the visible light from a burst during the burst itself (not the
        afterglow). People had searched
        > for this for 20 years until he succeeded in 1999. Part of the
        problem was that they didn't
        > know how bright it would be. It turned out to be very bright, 9th
        magnitude from half-way
        > across the Universe. That makes it about a million times more
        luminous than the Milky Way
        > galaxy (for a few seconds)---we'd be cooked if one happened
        nearby. Akerlof had to overcome
        > obstacles getting funded (his proposals were rejected) and a bitter
        fight with his closest
        > collaborator (who made off with the hardware and became his
        competitor), before making
        > this epochal discovery with a four-inch telescope (one of a cluster
        of four) made of
        > a telephoto lens for a 35 mm camera. Finally, he had a stroke of
        luck---the burst he detected
        > was barely inside the field of view, so he almost missed it. That
        was in 1999, and, so
        > far, no one has found another one.
        >
        > Then there is the XYZ Affair, a truly byzantine story of back-
        stabbing. Details are in the book.
        > jefftibb <jefftibb@y...> wrote: Richard,
        >
        > Are there any stories in the book you could tell us?
        >
        > I'd love to hear more.
        >
        >
        >
        > ---------------------------------
        > Do You Yahoo!?
        > Yahoo! - Official partner of 2002 FIFA World Cup
        >
        > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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