Contact: Steve Roy
Media Relations Department
(256) 544-0034
steve.roy@msfc.nasa.gov

RELEASE: 00-175

The following is a brief summary of the Burst And Transient
Source Experiment’s accomplishments since it was launched in
1991 aboard the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory:

  • Settled a long-running scientific debate by determining
    that bursts originate from the farthest reaches of the
    universe, not from inside our home galaxy, the Milky Way;

  • Expanded the list of known gamma ray burst sources
    from a few hundred before Compton’s launch to more
    than 2,600;

  • Creation of an unprecedented online database of gamma
    ray bursts available to scientists worldwide, now with
    more than 200 users;

  • Instrumental in obtaining the first simultaneous
    observation of a gamma ray burst source in both optical
    and gamma ray regions;

  • Created the BATSE Coordinates Distribution Network,
    an Internet-based system for rapid notification of burst
    locations to observatories and astronomers around the
    world;

  • Discovered mysterious gamma ray flashes above
    thunderstorm regions, lasting only for thousandths of a
    second, similar to the lightning commonly visible below
    them;

  • Discovered several of the brightest X-ray sources in the
    sky, thought to be the result of matter spilling from a
    normal star into a black hole;

  • Discovered a new class of bursting X-ray pulsars, rotating
    bodies that emit enormous energy, that contradicted
    prevailing theory by emitting both regular pulses and
    occasional high-powered bursts of X-ray radiation;

  • Discovered several objects, believed to be black holes,
    that produce numerous radio wavelength jet-like
    emissions exploding at nearly the speed of light from the
    central core of their source;

  • Discovered new Soft Gamma Ray Repeaters — thought to
    be neutron stars that undergo occasional blasts, emitting
    most of their energy in lower-frequency gamma rays and
    fading in the snap of your fingers — and helped pinpoint
    the location of others;

  • Coordinated observations with other satellites of several
    objects like black holes, active galaxies and more in
    several regions of the radiation spectrum simultaneously
    to improve knowledge of their behavior;

  • Confirmed the existence of magnetars, super-magnetized
    neutron stars with magnetic fields a thousand trillion times
    stronger than Earth’s magnetic field — so strong they
    could erase credit cards and pull pens out of a pocket at
    least halfway from Earth to the Moon.