This introductory chapter presents the background story on the discovery and research on gamma-ray bursts (GRB). In 1963, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy agreed to the Partial Test Ban Treaty. Ratifying nations agreed that all nuclear weapons testing would be conducted underground from then on: no longer would tests be conducted in oceans, in the atmosphere, or in space. The United States, led by a team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, promptly began the ambitious Vela Satellite Program to test for “non-compliance” with the Treaty. Not long after Los Alamos employee Ray Klebesadel began detecting GRBs. In 1973, Klebesadel and his colleagues Ian Strong and Roy Olson published a paper entitled “Observations of Gamma-Ray Bursts of Cosmic Origin” the Astrophysical Journal, which marked the beginning of the GRB enigma that to this day captivates the imagination and keeps astronomers scratching their heads.
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