Swift, Hubble, Chandra telescopes join forces to observe unprecedented explosion

Apr 07, 2011 by Francis Reddy
Images from Swift's Ultraviolet/Optical (white, purple) and X-ray telescopes (yellow and red) were combined in this view of GRB 110328A. The blast was detected only in X-rays, which were collected over a 3.4-hour period on March 28. Credit: NASA/Swift/Stefan Immler

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Swift, Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory have teamed up to study one of the most puzzling cosmic blasts yet observed. More than a week later, high-energy radiation continues to brighten and fade from its location.

Astronomers say they have never seen anything this bright, long-lasting and variable before. Usually, gamma-ray bursts mark the destruction of a massive star, but flaring emission from these events never lasts more than a few hours.

Although research is ongoing, astronomers say that the unusual blast likely arose when a star wandered too close to its galaxy's central black hole. Intense tidal forces tore the star apart, and the infalling gas continues to stream toward the hole. According to this model, the spinning black hole formed an outflowing jet along its rotational axis. A powerful blast of X- and is seen if this jet is pointed in our direction.

On March 28, Swift's Burst Alert Telescope discovered the source in the constellation Draco when it erupted with the first in a series of powerful X-ray blasts. The satellite determined a position for the explosion, now cataloged as (GRB) 110328A, and informed astronomers worldwide.

As dozens of telescopes turned to study the spot, astronomers quickly noticed that a small, appeared very near the Swift position. A deep image taken by Hubble on April 4 pinpoints the source of the explosion at the center of this galaxy, which lies 3.8 billion light-years away.

This is a visible-light image of GRB 110328A's host galaxy (arrow) taken on April 4 by the Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Camera 3. The galaxy is 3.8 billion light-years away. Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Fruchter (STScI)

That same day, astronomers used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory to make a four-hour-long exposure of the puzzling source. The image, which locates the object 10 times more precisely than Swift can, shows that it lies at the center of the galaxy Hubble imaged.

"We know of objects in our own galaxy that can produce repeated bursts, but they are thousands to millions of times less powerful than the bursts we are seeing now. This is truly extraordinary," said Andrew Fruchter at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

"We have been eagerly awaiting the Hubble observation," said Neil Gehrels, the lead scientist for Swift at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "The fact that the explosion occurred in the center of a galaxy tells us it is most likely associated with a massive black hole. This solves a key question about the mysterious event."

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory completed this four-hour exposure of GRB 110328A on April 4. The center of the X-ray source corresponds to the very center of the host galaxy imaged by Hubble (red cross). Credit: NASA/CXC/ Warwick/A. Levan

Most galaxies, including our own, contain central black holes with millions of times the sun's mass; those in the largest galaxies can be a thousand times larger. The disrupted star probably succumbed to a black hole less massive than the Milky Way's, which has a mass four million times that of our sun

Astronomers previously have detected stars disrupted by supermassive , but none have shown the X-ray brightness and variability seen in GRB 110328A. The source has repeatedly flared. Since April 3, for example, it has brightened by more than five times.

Scientists think that the X-rays may be coming from matter moving near the speed of light in a particle jet that forms as the star's gas falls toward the black hole.

GRB 110328A has repeatedly flared in the days following its discovery by Swift. This plot shows the brightness changes recorded by Swift's X-ray Telescope. Credit: NASA/Swift/Penn State/J. Kennea

"The best explanation at the moment is that we happen to be looking down the barrel of this jet," said Andrew Levan at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom, who led the Chandra observations. "When we look straight down these jets, a brightness boost lets us view details we might otherwise miss."

This brightness increase, which is called relativistic beaming, occurs when matter moving close to the speed of light is viewed nearly head on.

Astronomers plan additional Hubble observations to see if the galaxy's core changes brightness.

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User comments : 15

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1 / 5 (10) Apr 07, 2011
Thanks for an excellent report.

The energy source that powers cosmic explosions is probably neutron repulsion [Neutron Repulsion, The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages]


Observations like these that will confirm or deny conclusions that are based on nuclear rest mass data.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

4.1 / 5 (7) Apr 07, 2011
possibly, but you make it sound as if icecream, red dresses, waterballoons and lotterytickets are all powered by neutron repulsion, wich some people would find "repulsive"
not rated yet Apr 07, 2011
Now we know that we can observe that black hole from that interesting position, his pole.
Smaller objects should fall on it from time to time.
1 / 5 (9) Apr 07, 2011
possibly, but you make it sound as if ice cream, red dresses, water balloons and lottery tickets are all powered by neutron repulsion, which some people would find "repulsive"

Thanks for your comment. I do not want to annoy others, although I sometimes feel like Archimedes must have felt when he shouted, "Eureka!"

Neutron repulsion does not power ice cream, red dresses, water balloons and lottery tickets.

But I have been amazed at how many things may be powered by this most powerful nuclear force, since it was first recognized in 2000:


The Sun
Life on Earth
Cosmic explosions
Supernova explosions
Fragmentation of galactic centers
Nuclear reactors and the atomic bomb

1. See this brief video on neutron repulsion:


2. This research report, "Neutron Repulsion" [The APEIRON Journal, in press, 19 pages]

3.7 / 5 (6) Apr 07, 2011
he just wont shut up
4 / 5 (8) Apr 08, 2011
But I have been amazed at how many things may be powered by this most powerful nuclear force, since it was first recognized in 2000
The only think known to be powered by Neutron Repulsion is Oliver.

OK time to ask again.

Do you think neutron repulsion is a long range force or a short ranges force? What distinguishes it from the Pauli Exclusion Principle?

Please note that on most of the other sites that allow alternate to mainstream theory the theorist is REQUIRED to answer questions and to NOT spam the site. Which I think is much better than simply disallowing alternate theory. However you refuse to answer legitimate questions and you are spamming this site. Must be one of the few you have yet to be banned from.

So how about you answer the question.

4 / 5 (8) Apr 08, 2011
I sometimes feel like Archimedes must have felt when he shouted, "Eureka!"

Oh, please...

The moment and the insight attributed to Archimedes was one of great clarity, usefulness, and genius. You compare yourself to him? Really?

You're a fringe crank, spamming obscure corners of the internet with a theory that does not seem to hold up to even mild questioning.

There *is* no comparison. Delusions of grandeur, I'm sorry to say...

I do wonder, though... The sheer volume of your monotone posts. Is it a symptom of a true mania? Or a calculated attempt to swamp google search results - in order to bury the articles relating to your alleged sexual abuse of the children in your 'care'?

Archimedes, indeed...
3.3 / 5 (7) Apr 08, 2011
The sheer volume of your monotone posts. Is it a symptom of a true mania?

Dementia perhaps?
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 09, 2011
I sometimes feel like Archimedes must have felt when he shouted, "Eureka!"

Oh, please...

The moment and the insight attributed to Archimedes was one of great clarity, usefulness, and genius. You compare yourself to him? Really?

You're a fringe crank, spamming obscure corners of the internet with a theory that does not seem to hold up to even mild questioning.

Archimedes, indeed...

Oh PaulieCrank, I see you don't limit your attacks to me. You're an equal opportunity self-proclaimed genious flamer.

Folks, this yahoo spends his time on PhysOrg looking for people to attack and contributing nothing.

3 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2011
Ahh Nada, following me around now? Cool, a stalker.. And uprated by Oliver, too! You must be so proud :)

Perhaps you would like to defend hit pet theory? Tell us, then, how is it that our sun has a neutron star at its core, despite the Chandrasekhar limit, which descibes the minimum mass of such a body as 1.4 solar masses? Where did Chandrasekhar go wrong?
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 11, 2011
While i have no problems with people putting forth their own ideas. It has been quite awhile since i've seen omatumr respond to any questioning of his theory, and to be quite honest it's beginning to be quite Annoying to read this junk every time there is an article that even mentions a star.

It also pisses me off that EVERY time i see his username i can't help but think about how he was arrested for the rape and sodomy of his own children.

I also wonder if this communication he is currently having with children under the age of 18 is in prohibition of his legal standing. Yes there are people under the age of 18 that he has been speaking to right here on this website.

5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2011
A brief paper has been posted over at arXiv describing early observations of the X-ray light curve of GRB 110328A by the Swift X-Ray Telescope. The authors find the event was likely the product of a stellar disruption by a 70 million solar mass SMBH at the nucleus of the host galaxy: http://arxiv.org/...28v1.pdf
2 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2011
Thanks for the link yyz. They predict the event should not last long, or more than a few months, at most. So what will they come up with later this year to explain a continued eruption. Is this a galactic core explosion we are witnessing??? Time will tell...
1 / 5 (4) Apr 19, 2011
Source of unprecedented explosion?

1. "Quantum states of neutrons in the Earth's gravitational field", Nature 415 (2002) 297-299]


2. "Realization of a gravity-resonance-spectroscopy technique", Nature Physics, Published Online 17 April 2011 doi:10.1038/nphys1970 ]


3. "Ultra-cold neutrons: Quantum bouncing ball resonates", Nature Physics, Published Online 17 April 2011 doi:10.1038/nphys1990 ]


4. Rumors that Fermilab's CDF team studied collisions between Protons and anti-Protons and independently found evidence for a strong repulsive nuclear force.

5. "Neutron Repulsion", The APEIRON Journal, 19 pages (2011) in press.

3 / 5 (2) May 10, 2011
Update: Six-weeks later and I just learned that there has been no let up in the energy output from this event. Tic toc tic toc.... I look forward to the explanations!

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