Space Observatory Blinded by X-rays

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., July 14 (UPI) — A NASA space observatory was temporarily blinded by a massive blast of X-rays from beyond the Milky Way, the largest ever detected, astronomers say.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Swift orbiting space observatory was overwhelmed June 21 by a gamma-ray burst caused by a star exploding before becoming a black hole, Penn State University release said Wednesday.

“This gamma-ray burst is by far the brightest light source ever seen in X-ray wavelengths at cosmological distances,” said David Burrows, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and lead scientist for Swift’s X-ray telescope.

Although purposefully designed to study gamma-ray bursts, the instrument was not designed to handle an X-ray blast this bright, scientists say.

“The intensity of these X-rays was unexpected and unprecedented” said Neil Gehrels, Swift’s principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

The instrument quickly recovered from the initial blast of X-rays and recorded the rest of the incoming radiation, the university release said.

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Categorized | Other, Radiation
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