JHU Abstract 2014-Gamma Ray Bursts

Gamma Ray Bursts


Luke Bender (Towson High School), Jeremy Smith (Hereford High School), Tyler Bradley (Towson high School), Dr. Morris Swartz (Johns Hopkins University)



The purpose of this research was to learn as much as possible about the history, cause,

and effects of gamma ray bursts as well as what they could tell us about our universe.

Gamma ray bursts are the brightest and most energetic events in the universe and occur

whenever a super massive star runs out of nuclear fuel or when 2 neutron stars orbiting

each other collide. When a super massive star explodes, the core will become a black hole

and expel energy as gamma rays in jets, and these bursts typically last from about 2

seconds to a few hundred seconds. With 2 neutron stars colliding, the burst is much

shorter, lasting a few hundred milliseconds to 2 seconds. The long gamma ray bursts are

far more common (~70%) in comparison to the short gamma ray bursts (~30%). There has

also been discovered neutron stars that have a much stronger magnetic field than normal.

These “magnetars” are hypothesized to be the cause of soft gamma ray repeaters, less

energetic gamma ray bursts are that repeatedly emitted. Gamma ray bursts typically occur

in galaxies billions of light years away, so these bursts help tell us about the early universe.

In fact, the oldest known thing in the universe was a star over 13 billion light years away that

caused a gamma ray burst. Additionally, if a super massive star were within a few

thousand light years away, then it could potentially destroy all life on Earth. In fact, it is

hypothesized that a gamma ray burst could have caused extinction before, but there is no