Archive for March, 2009

Gamma ray bursts

Posted in Science on March 4, 2009 by Grad Student

I’m conflicted about gamma ray bursts.  They have many similarities to AGN jets (what I study), but we can’t image them!  Below is an AGN jet that we can resolve and study the features of.

cyg_a_big1

On the other hand, below is a gamma ray burst that we cannot resolve at all.  Below left is the zoomed out version, below right is the zoomed in version.  the gamma ray burst is just an unresolved blob.

At the end of the day it’s all about scales and total energy.  AGN jets have a huge gravitational engine, in the form of a black hole that is a billion times the mass of our sun.  On the other hand, a gamma ray burst has a smaller engine that is between 10 and 100 times the mass of the sun.  This translates into a huge differene in scales and duration.  An AGN jet is millions of times larger than a gamma ray burst and therefore resolvable (there are other issues also).  Still our dearth of knowledge regarding gamma ray bursts makes them all the more interesting.  At the end of the day though, I’m glad to be studying AGN jets.