Gamma Ray Burst
January 30, 2004
Why do x-ray rings appear to emanate from a gamma-ray burst? The surprising answer has little to do with the explosion itself but rather with light reflected off sheets of dust-laden gas in our own Milky Way Galaxy. GRB 031203 was a tremendous explosion -- a gamma-ray burst that occurred far across the universe with radiation just arriving in our Solar System last December 3. Since GRBs can also emit copious amounts of x-rays, a bright flash of x-rays likely arrived simultaneously with the gamma-radiation. In this case, the x-rays bounced off two slabs of cosmic dust nearly 3500 light-years distant and created the unusual reflections. The longer path from the GRB, to the dust slab, to the XMM-Newton telescope caused the x-ray light echoes to arrive well after the GRB. Click the image for animation.