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What Are Gamma-Ray Bursts?$
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Joshua S. Bloom

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691145570

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691145570.001.0001

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Into the Belly of the Beast

Into the Belly of the Beast

(p.40) 2 Into the Belly of the Beast
What Are Gamma-Ray Bursts?

Joshua S. Bloom

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses the definition, emission, and central engine of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Before the afterglow era, GRBs were essentially defined by observations of their high-energy emission. The landscape of such observations—the light curves and spectra of the events—exhibits at once great diversity and elements of commonality that bind different events together. GRBs are like fingerprints: no two are alike, but they share common properties. Those common elements provide strong constraints both on the nature of the “engine” that supplies the energy to the event and the physical processes that drive the emission we see. Since the 1990s, GRB monitors in space have observed more than one hundred GRBs. Since 2004, the NASA GRB satellite called Swift has been discovering GRBs at a rate of about two per week.

Keywords:   gamma-ray bursts, GRBs, Swift satellite, high-energy emission, NASA GRB satellite, afterglow

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