Flash!: The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 18, 2002 - Nature - 291 pages
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About three times a day our sky flashes with a powerful pulse of gamma ray bursts (GRB), invisible to human eyes but not to astronomers' instruments. The sources of this intense radiation are likely to be emitting, within the span of seconds or minutes, more energy than the sun will in its entire 10 billion years of life. Where these bursts originate, and how they come to have such incredible energies, is a mystery scientists have been trying to solve for three decades. The phenomenon has resisted study -- the flashes come from random directions in space and vanish without trace -- until very recently. In what could be called a cinematic conflation of Flash Gordon and The Hunt for Red October, Govert Schilling's Flash!: The Hunt for the Biggest Explosions in the Universe describes the exciting and ever-changing field of GRB research. Based on interviews with leading scientists, Flash! provides an insider's account of the scientific challenges involved in unravelling the enigmatic nature of GRBs. A science writer who has followed the drama from the very start, Schilling describes the ambition and jealousy, collegiality and competition, triumph and tragedy, that exists among those who have embarked on this recherche. Govert Schilling is a Dutch science writer and astronomy publicist. He is a contributing editor of Sky and Telescope magazine, and regularly writes for the news sections of Science and New Scientist. Schilling is the astronomy writer for de Volkskrant, one of the largest national daily newspapers in The Netherlands, and frequently talks about the Universe on Dutch radio broadcasts. He is the author of more than twenty popular astronomy books, and hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on astronomy.
 

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Contents

The bat mystery
24
A duel over distance
40
Liras tears and satellites
57
Beaming in on afterglows 7 2
72
First among equals
91
Eavesdropping on heavenly whispers
109
Thinking with the speed of light
128
Competition for the big bang
144
Alchemists of the cosmos
176
The magnetar attraction
190
The Argus eyes of Livermore
207
Fireworks and black holes
225
A flashing future
241
War and peace
256
Acronyms
273
Copyright

Curious connections
160

Common terms and phrases

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About the author (2002)

Govert Schilling is the Netherlands' best known astronomy journalist. He writes for many publications including New Scientist, Science, and Sky and Telescope. In 2002 he was awarded the Dutch Eureka! prize for his work on popularising knowledge and science.

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