The results of the work from the team, consisting of PhD student Eric Howell, research fellow Dr David Coward, and academics Dr Ron Burman and Professor David Blair, from UWA’s School of Physics are published today in the prestigious journal, Astrophysical Journal Letters (vol. 666 n2).
Dr Coward said gamma ray bursts were very bright flashes of gamma rays, the most energetic explosions in the Universe since the Big Bang that created the Universe, and it was important to know how often and where these occurred because their effects could be devastating on Earth.
“Some of these flashes are associated with very energetic supernovae, the explosions marking the collapse of massive stars into black holes. Fortunately, they appear to be quite rare events near the solar system, but occur daily throughout the rest of the Universe,” Dr Coward said.
“NASA satellites have been observing gamma ray bursts since the 1970s, and they typically record them at a rate of one per day. Lasting from a few seconds to several minutes, they are hundreds of times brighter than a typical supernova and about a million trillion times as bright as the Sun, making them briefly the brightest source of radiation in the Universe,” he said.
The team have applied their computer program – called the Probability Event Horizon filter – to NASA data and have been able to predict when events are most likely to occur.
The researchers are also looking at the potential for their program to be applied to the prediction of earthquakes.
Dr David Coward 61 8 6488 4563 / 0423 981 240