Universe does a doozie

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By Roger Snodgrass

A robotic telescope on Fenton Hill in the Jemez Mountains west of Los Alamos was the first instrument on Earth to get a look at one of the brightest known explosions in the cosmos March 19.The phenomenon was a major gamma ray burst that had happened 7.5 billion years ago when a massive star collapsed into a black hole. Radiation from the blast had just arrived on earth’s outskirts, tipping off the Swift satellite to swing into position.Los Alamos researchers were already absorbed with an ordinary burst from a half-hour earlier.“Somebody noticed that there was a new e-mail coming in from second burst,” said Dave Palmer, the LANL scientist who developed the software that quickly slews the Swift telescope to locate gamma ray bursts.

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