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NASA Space Science

X-Ray Burst Temporarily Blinds NASA Satellite 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the galaxy-sized-shark-thought-to-be-responsible dept.
RedEaredSlider writes with news that a recently-detected gamma-ray burst, originating roughly five billion light-years away, was powerful enough to temporarily blind NASA's Swift satellite. Phil Plait has an interesting writeup on the event. Quoting: "Swift, normally easily able to handle the X-ray load from these explosions, was overwhelmed, and actually shut down temporarily when software detected that the cameras onboard might get damaged by the flood of light. That’s never happened before. The burst was so bright in X-rays it put other GRBs to shame: slamming Swift with 143,000 X-ray photons per second, it was 5 times brighter than the previous record holder, and nearly 200 times as bright as a typical GRB! Weirdly, it didn’t look out of the ordinary in visible light."
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X-Ray Burst Temporarily Blinds NASA Satellite

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  • In a tragedy reported today, Superman was looking at the sky during the GRB event and was blinded due to his X-ray vision. Reports say that he is now training with a seeing-eye falcon.
    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday July 16, 2010 @04:13PM (#32931342)
      I wonder if any of the ISS crew are feeling stretchy or hot or strong or invisible...
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Or hard and stiff!

      • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

        Posting to undo fat-fingered mod. Sorry.

      • >>>invisible.

        Aaaaah..... Jessica... Alba... without clothes..... gaaaah.

        • I'm right there with ya, babe.

          Aaaaah..... Jessica... Alba... as Sue Storm..... gaaaaaaaah.
        • by s4ltyd0g (452701)

          but then of course, one of the others sees Jessica Alba writhing there naked and alone... You have to admit it makes an inviting picture (-;

      • by jd (1658)

        Hmmmm. Nope, doesn't look like it, but one has either grown an extra arm and head or NASA is replaying HHGTTG again.

      • by aicrules (819392)
        Okay so that describes Jessica Alba, but what about the other three of the fantastic four?
    • Why wouldn't Krypto act as an assistance dog?

    • by mangu (126918)

      Superman was looking at the sky during the GRB event and was blinded due to his X-ray vision

      If you had read the last line of TFS you would know that "Weirdly, it didn't look out of the ordinary in visible light" (incidentally, why they think it's weird that something that emits X-rays looks ordinary in visible light?)

      It was only Superman's X-ray vision that was blinded, his ordinary vision is still super. Now MacGyver has agreed to help by improvising a pair of X-ray eyeglasses using a dentist's X-ray machi

  • by sznupi (719324) on Friday July 16, 2010 @03:52PM (#32930964) Homepage

    ...for this LHC to achieve such respectable levels of efficiency.

    • The aliens have discovered us.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by jd (1658)

        No, no, the aliens were just in for their routine medical and the X-Ray scanner went wonky. Nothing to get alarmed about. They were well within the permitted dosage limits, according to medical experts on Omnichron 425.

  • by Itninja (937614)
    I think there has been at least a dozen horror and apocalyptic films that have started with this exact event.
    • Instant movie formula:

      The X-rays* are boiling the Earth's Core? That's Impossible!

      *Substitute X-rays for Neutrinos, Beta Waves, Gamma Radiation, C02 gasses, or whatever scares most people at the current time.

    • I think there has been at least a dozen horror and apocalyptic films that have started with this exact event.

      Considering this event happened five billion years ago, there's a good possibility it's more than a dozen.

      • by SomeJoel (1061138)

        I think there has been at least a dozen horror and apocalyptic films that have started with this exact event.

        Considering this event happened five billion years ago, there's a good possibility it's more than a dozen.

        I don't see how that has anything to do with anything.

    • by natehoy (1608657)

      If disaster movies are at all accurate, your best chance of survival is to start predicting a global apocalypse.

      Guys should dress somewhat shabbily, women should dress as provocatively as possible, preferably in high heels so you can run effectively from any disaster.

      Be sure you have tons of impossible-to-verify-independently facts and observations, and report your findings to the most fossilized organization possible.

      • by Itninja (937614)
        It also helps if you are impossibly good-looking. Or a child. Or a pet. But is you are cruel to children or pets, you're toast.
  • She Blinded Me With Science [youtube.com]. Did you know Thomas Dolby [thomasdolby.com] is touring again, btw?
  • by garyisabusyguy (732330) on Friday July 16, 2010 @03:56PM (#32931046)

    Only fired off one Halo

    • Nah, they all fired at the same time.

      We just haven't detected the others yet.

      This was just the "muzzle flash", wait till the full blast wave hits.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday July 16, 2010 @03:59PM (#32931088)
    "Ha, ha, made you blink!"
  • Typical alien cover (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    nm

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You get this video [youtube.com] about actual observations of intercelestial bodies manipulating the sun with what are termed lasers, and then there are passes from what is deemed "wormhole" technology that arrives near the sun from a trailable distance that could be seen as perhaps millions of lightyears away because it can be visually traced.

      Then of'course there is the meteor over 4-times larger than Planet Jupiter, and NASA doesn't report any of this.

      Yay homebrew and independent astronomers!

  • (143,000, photons /second) x (h, Planck's constant in j-s) x (c, speed of light (in m/s)) / (avg wavelength of x-ray) = (6.63E-32)(3E8)(143,000)/(5E-9) = ~5.68E-10 J/S

    Amirite?
    • Now what would be interesting is that somebody plug those number into a calculator, and assuming a perfect spherical repartition of the X ray photon, calculate the energy / intensity of the total photon emitted at the moment of the event, in 1 AU radius...
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      How much is that in Libraries of Congress?
    • Re:Some perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

      by imsabbel (611519) on Friday July 16, 2010 @04:29PM (#32931600)

      You got your wavelength wrong. As nobody uses wavelength for x-rays anyway (well almost nobody...),the straightforward way would be:
      Number of photons * Energy of Photons.

      The detector of Swift is sensitive from 15-150keV, so lets say a median energy of 50keV.
      1eV=1.602*10^19J
      ->
      143E3*1.602E-19*50E3= 1.15 nW

      Now much, but consider: 1.15nW on each squre meter surface of a sphere with 5 billion lightyears radius...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by IQgryn (1081397)
        1.15 nW/m^2 * 4 * pi * (5E9 ly * 9.46E15 m/ly)^2 = 3.22E43 W

        Do we know this wasn't somewhat directed?
        • Re:Some perspective (Score:5, Informative)

          by IorDMUX (870522) <mark.zimmerman3@gmail . c om> on Friday July 16, 2010 @05:53PM (#32932740) Homepage

          Do we know this wasn't somewhat directed?

          We assume that they are very directed... rather than assuming that 3.6 e26 grams of matter/antimatter are being annihilated every second (from a quick application of E=mc^2).

          From Wikipedia's entry on Gamma Ray Bursts [wikipedia.org] [emphasis added]:

          Most observed GRBs are believed to be a narrow beam of intense radiation released during a supernova event, as a rapidly rotating, high-mass star collapses to form a black hole.

          The other probable cause of GRB's, the merger or two neutron stars, would also rotate rapidly as the stars moved in more closely (conservation of angular momentum: think of a figure skater pulling in her arms). In both cases there exists a well-defined plane of rotation and emissions expelled along the axes.

          • Even if this event is spread over only 1/100 of the surface of a sphere, this energy output is equivalent to the entire output of the milky way, assuming high estimates for number of stars in this galaxy (400 billion or so).It's a truly staggering amount of energy that I don't think humans can appreciate. We all like to bandy about numbers like 10^{nn} without having a clue.

            Space is big.

            • Space is big.

              One day i was walking along the street and i did a mental zoom out, looking down at myself like a spec of dust in new york city. Then zoomed out to see NYC as a spec of dust in the region, which was like a spec of dust on the planet which is like a spec of dust in the solar system which is like a spec of dust in the galaxy which is like a spec of dust in the universe.............

              and then i literally fell down. Like my brain blew a fuse.

              If humans had any conception of how small we are in the universe we mi

    • (143,000, photons /second) x (h, Planck's constant in j-s) x (c, speed of light (in m/s)) / (avg wavelength of x-ray) = (6.63E-32)(3E8)(143,000)/(5E-9) = ~5.68E-10 J/S Amirite?

      Technically you may be right, but this is Slashdot, so we need a car analogy:

      5.68E-10 J/S = 5.68E-10 W. The Corvette ZR-1* [wikipedia.org] puts out 476 kW = 476E3W (638 hp). 476E3/5.68E-10 = 8.38028169E14 ~= 838E12

      Moral of this is, one top-of-the-line, stock Corvette could "temporarily blind" over eight hundred trillion NASA satellites. I don't want to know how many sats a Romulan Bird-of-Prey could blind...

      *NASA's from the U.S.A., so we naturally need an car from the same country. An Enzo Ferrari puts out roughly

  • Some....where.....out there....at a glowing terminal in a galaxy far far away....

    Pinging eth0.sol.andromeda.alphaquadrant.gxy [10.197.19.1] with 32 bytes of data:

    Reply from 10.197.19.1: bytes=32 time1ms TTL=127
    Request timed out
    Reply from 10.197.19.1: bytes=32 time1ms TTL=127
    Reply from 10.197.19.1: bytes=32 time1ms TTL=127

    Ping statistics for 10.197.19.1:

    Packets: Sent = 4, Received = 3, Lost = 1 (25% loss),

    Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:

    Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

    • by SomeJoel (1061138)
      You mean the whole universe is on a LAN?! Explains much.
    • Some observations about the Intergalatic NOC.

      First, they are probably tired of Intergalatic NOC NOC jokes.

      Second, they're probably being sued by Apple for running the iNOC.

      Third, it's nice to see that we're not the only in the Galaxy still stuck on IPV4.

      Fourth, the iNOC seems to have achieved a FTL network connection based on it's ping rate of 0 to a node several light _years_ away. Any idea on how that was done?

      • by 2names (531755)
        "Any idea on how that was done?"

        Quantum Entanglement.
      • by jd (1658)

        They're wormholing their network traffic.

      • by f3rret (1776822)

        Fourth, the iNOC seems to have achieved a FTL network connection based on it's ping rate of 0 to a node several light _years_ away. Any idea on how that was done?

        Magic, naturally.

    • by w0mprat (1317953)
      http://10.197.19.1/ [10.197.19.1] appears to have been slashdotted. All I get in firefox is:

      The connection has timed out

      The server at 10.197.19.1 is taking too long to respond.

      * The site could be temporarily unavailable or too busy. Try again in a few moments.
      * If you are unable to load any pages, check your computer's network connection.
      * A Coronal Mass Ejection or other such solar disturbance may be disrupting networks.
      * The planet the host is on may have been demolished to make way f
      • by marqs (774373)
        As an former employee at iNOC i can assure you that 10.197.19.1 is up and responding.
        However I can see that there are some problems with the quantum entanglement connection to your solar system.
    • by Joe Snipe (224958)

      Even they are having problems rolling out IPv6

    • by mooingyak (720677)

      The aliens are stuck on DOS too it would seem.

    • ...to 10 billion years. Problem solved.

    • by Palshife (60519)

      I don't know what has me tickled more, the fact that the galaxy is on a private IP network, or that it's on IPv4!

    • Minimum = 0ms, Maximum = 0ms, Average = 0ms

      Wouldn't that be closer to 10^100ms? :P

  • Why are aliens X-raying our satellites? I think Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones should be alerted.
  • ..which planet?

    We can probably blame the MIB [wikipedia.org] (or those they police) for this latest development...

  • ... Doctor Bruce Banner stubbed his toe on a table leg, then declared to the journalists "HULK SMASH!" before smashing his way out through the brick wall.
  • You try to make the bird so light, and this is the price you will pay down the road.

    • What part of "5 times brighter than the previous record holder, and nearly 200 times as bright as a typical GRB" wasn't clear? Do you know of any bridges that are built to withstand 5 times the record max load, or 200 times their average peak load?
      • Do you know of any bridges that are built to withstand 5 times the record max load, or 200 times their average peak load?

        Building a bridge that way would depend on how long you want the bridge to remain standing with little or no maintenance.

        • You're being specious again. Besides, Swift's design lifetime is a handful of years. Which, of course, has nothing to do with launch weight (shielding) or max expected input.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      The story is very sensationalist. All that happened is that the X-ray photons reached the detector faster than they could be recorded. Once the rate of photons slowed down the detector was fine again. This is a fairly normal occurrence for X-ray detectors. Roughly half of all of the gamma-ray bursts that Swift detects have X-ray emission higher than the XRT's coincidence limit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Blinded by the light
    revved up like a deuce
    another runner in the night
    Blinded by the light
    revved up like a deuce
    another runner in the night
    Blinded by the light
    revved up like a deuce
    another runner in the night
    Madman drummers bummers
    Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat
    In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
    With a boulder on my shoulder feelin kinda older
    I tripped the merry-go-round
    With this very unpleasin sneezin and wheezin
    the calliope crashed to the ground
    The calliop

    • by sabernet (751826)

      Doc Bruce Banner,
      Belted by gamma rays,
      Turned into the Hulk.

      Ain’t he unglamo-rays!

      Wreckin’ the town
      With the power of a bull,

      Ain’t no monster clown
      Who is as lovable.

      As ever-lovin’ Hulk! HULK!! HULK!!"

  • Obviously, this was an attempt by the Chela [wikipedia.org] at Optical SETI [planetary.org].

    It's not their fault we have a different definition of "optical"....

  • If I'm doing my calculations correctly, I get a figure of ~1.436 x 10^57 photons per second coming from the source, assuming a fully spherical distribution...
    • Whoops, I managed somehow to screw radius/diameter in my haste, the corrected figure would be ~1.449 x 10^58...
    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      The distribution is not spherical. Gamma-ray burst are thought to be beamed into jets with opening angles of about 1-10 degrees.

    • Current theories have GRB emissions coming from the stars poles instead of evenly around the whole star. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma-ray_burst_emission_mechanisms#Jet_effects)

      Either way, it's still a lot of photons!

    • by rossdee (243626)

      "assuming a fully spherical distribution..."

      But of course its not emitted in all directions. Its a very narrow beam coming out of the pole of a black hole.

  • Since it was an extraordinary x-ray discharge from a great distance with no other apparent discharges (radio, infrared, visible, etc), I have to wonder if continued observation will eventually yield those at a later time. If so, how would that be interpreted? (Not only regarding the cause/aftermath of the event itself, but also interference by interstellar materials and possible changes to em propagation.)

    I don't know much science, but I know enough to make science teachers nervous ;)
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by amRadioHed (463061)

      Plenty of extraordinarily distant GRBs have been observed already and no evidence [nature.com] has been found yet of variation of EM propagation speed across the spectrum over long distances.

  • Glad it is just gamma rays, if it were in infrared or even visible light, somebody would probably blame the burst for the global temperature rise.

  • they are staring to play good base ball now.

  • Weirdly, it didn’t look out of the ordinary in visible light.

    I don't see how this is weird. The room didn't get any brighter when they bombarded my knee with x-rays when they were looking at my torn meniscus.

  • My Optics! The goggles to nothing!

  • Turns out it was caused by the Death Star.
  • I am kind of impressed that the programmers anticipated excessive gamma rays and instituted measures to prevent damage. Your standard-issue security and digital cameras don't do that.

  • Did i get it right? if i take the difference in distance into account naively, then the radioation itensity at the source was 10^12 times higher than the brightest source we see normally?

    octave:13> 100*(5e9/50e3)^2
    ans = 1.0000e+12

    glad i am far away!

  • trying to build DMZs by blowing up star systems

    • by youn (1516637)

      replying to myself, I'm still asleep... embarassing, I meant to say

      oh no, he's trying to build ZPMs by blowing up star systems :)

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