Breaking the limits: Discovery of the highest-energy photons from a gamma-ray burst

phys.org | 1/14/2019 | Staff
CarisCaris (Posted by) Level 3
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Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are brief and extremely powerful cosmic explosions, suddenly appearing in the sky, about once per day. They are thought to result from the collapse of massive stars or the merging of neutron stars in distant galaxies. They commence with an initial, very bright flash, called the prompt emission, with a duration ranging from a fraction of a second to hundreds of seconds. The prompt emission is accompanied by the so-called afterglow, a less brighter but longer-lasting emission over a broad range of wavelengths that fades with time. The first GRB detected by the MAGIC telescopes, known as GRB 190114C, reveals for the first time the highest energy photons measured from these objects.

On January 14th, 2019, a GRB was discovered independently by two space satellites: the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The event was named GRB 190114C, and within 22 seconds, its coordinates in the sky were distributed as an electronic alert to astronomers worldwide, including the MAGIC Collaboration, which operates two 17m diameter Cherenkov telescopes located in La Palma, Spain. Since GRBs appear at unpredictable locations in the sky and then rapidly fade, their observation by telescopes such as MAGIC requires a dedicated follow-up strategy.

System - Time - GRB - Alerts - Instruments

An automatic system processes in real time the GRB alerts from satellite instruments and makes the MAGIC telescopes point rapidly to the sky position of the GRB. The telescopes were designed to be very light and capable of fast repointing: despite the weight of 64 tons each, they can reach and start observing any given position in the sky in just about 25 seconds. MAGIC was able to start the observation of GRB 190114C just 50 seconds after the beginning of the GRB.

The analysis of the resulting data for the first tens of seconds reveals emission of photons...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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