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SCI/TECH: Brightest Galactic Flash Ever Detected Hits Earth

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posted on Feb, 19 2005 @ 10:21 PM
In what has been described as a "once-a-millenium event", the brightest cosmic explosion in recorded history was detected on December 27th from a "magnetar", a neutron star with an ultra-powerful magnetic field. Only twenty kilometers across and rotating once every 7.5 seconds, the star emitted enough radiation to even temporarily depress the Earth's ionosphere, was briefly brighter than the moon, and released "more energy in a 10th of a second than the Sun emits in 100,000 years."
Stunned astronomers have described the greatest cosmic explosion ever monitored - a star burst from the other side of the galaxy that was briefly brighter than the full Moon and swamped satellites and telescopes. The high-radiation flash, detected last December 27, caused no harm to earth but would have literally fried the planet had it occurred within a few light years of home.

To give an idea of this in earthly terms, the field is so powerful that it could strip the data off a credit card at a distance of 200,000 kilometres. "It was the mother of all magnetic flares - a true monster," said Kevin Hurley, a research physicist at the University of California at Berkeley.

Many questions will be thrown up by the event, including the intriguing speculation that the dinosaurs may have been wiped out by a similar, closer gamma-ray explosion 65 million years ago, and not by climate change inflicted by an asteroid impact.

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The majority of data has come from radio telescopes tracking the "afterglow" of the burst and emissions from the resulting "fireball" as it expands into space. The burst itself is thought to have been caused by a catastrophic disruption in the magnetic field of the star.

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[edit on 2005/2/19 by wecomeinpeace]


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