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April 23, 2024
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Gamma Ray Skies
Produced by: David Barrett Wilson
Thirty years ago, a U.S. spy satellite searching for clandestine nuclear weapons tests detected frequent, but brief, bursts of powerful gamma-rays. Fortunately for world peace, they came from space, not from the Earth. Astronomers have puzzled over the origin of these bursts ever since. For close to twenty years after their discovery, gamma-ray bursts remained so mysterious that astronomers could not decide whether they came from nearby stars or galaxies on the far edge of the Universe. Only in the last few years has it become clear that they do, in fact, come from galaxies tens of billions of light-years away. To appear so bright at Earth, and yet come from such distant sources, the explosions that generate these gamma-rays must be truly enormous.

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Program Credits

Gamma Ray Skies was produced by David Barrett Wilson. The audio engineer was Robin Wise. Special thanks to Jerry Bonnell of the NASA Space Flight Center. This program was funded in part by the National Science Foundation with additional support from NASA, WABE-FM, WAMU-FM and the Morehouse School of Medicine. PROGRAM UPDATE: for several years, we've known that the Long Gamma Ray bursts were caused by a neutron star exploding, then collapsing and forming a black hole. Thanks to new satellite imagery, we now know for certain that the short bursts happen when a neutron star collides with either another neutron star, or a black hole.


Scientists discover source of gamma ray bursts
The latest findings on astronomy's 35 year mystery.

The Nine Planets
Take a multimedia tour of the solar system, while learning about the history, mythology, and current scientific knowledge of each of the planets and moons.

Read articles about space science, earth science and astrology.

Sky and Telescope Magazine
A leading source of accurate and up-to-date information about astronomy and space science.

Thursday's Classroom
A collection of science lesson plans and educational activities from NASA.

NASA's homepage for the SWIFT Gamma Ray Burst Mission, which recently confirmed the origin of Gamma Ray Bursts.

A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes
by: Stephen Hawking
An exhilarating journey to distant galaxies, black holes, and alternate dimensions, as well as Professor Hawking's observations about the latest advances.

Gamma-Ray Bursts: Observations, Analyses and Theories
by: Cheng Ho (Editor), Richard I. Epstein (Editor), Edward E. Fenimore (Editor)
A summary of the current understanding of astronomical gamma-ray bursts, short-lived flashes of high-energy radiation, which have eluded even a basic explanation for over twenty years, and a look at directions for future research.

The Scientific American Book of Astronomy
by: Timothy Ferris (Introduction), Editors of Scientific American Magazine
Space has captivated and confounded human beings since our earliest ancestors first gazed upward toward the starry heavens. From the seventeenth century, when Galileo viewed the moon through his newly invented telescope, to the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, mankind has pursued the quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

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Programs by David Barrett Wilson

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