Credit: XMM-Newton SOC; ESA

Caught in the Act

Cosmic bursts of gamma-rays are some of the most elusive and mysterious events in the Universe. Since gamma-rays are difficult to image, it remains difficult to localize the bursts based on their gamma-ray emission. A fruitful technique has been to localize the burst using X-ray emission, since these bursts also produce X-ray "afterglows", and since X-rays can be imaged with high precision. The above image shows a gamma-ray burst observed by the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope. The burst occurred on December 11, 2001 and was discovered by the BeppoSAX high-energy satellite observatory; the XMM-Newton Science Operations Center (SOC) was notified of the burst and quickly repointed the telescope to try and catch the afterglow. The image on left shows the EPIC-PN observation of the bursting source, marked by an arrow. The image on the right shows the variation of the X-ray brightness of the source as seen by XMM-Newton (the black and red points, respectively, represent the emission before and after the pointing of the satellite was fine-tuned). The X-ray brightness of the source decreased by about a factor of 2-3 through the XMM-Newton observation.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified April 4, 2002