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Gamma-Ray Burst Mystery Solved: Exploding Stars the Culprit

Australian telescopes have helped provide the clinching evidence that gamma-ray bursts - the biggest bangs in the Universe - are produced when massive stars explode and their cores collapse to form black holes.

An international team of astronomers led by Professor Shri Kulkarni of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) got their proof from a gamma-ray burst that occurred last November, GRB 011121.

Gamma-ray bursts are enormous blasts of gamma rays, often accompanied by an 'afterglow' of light, X-rays and radio waves.

They were discovered in 1967. Their cause has been unknown, although evidence has been building since 1997 that massive stars are the culprits.

Careful sleuthing with the Hubble Space Telescope, CSIRO's Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope, the Anglo-Australian Telescope and telescopes in Chile showed that gamma-ray burst GRB 011121 had indeed been accompanied by the explosion of a massive star - a supernova.

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Added by Andrew Wright on 2002-05-16

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