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"We expect to see an event like this only once or twice a century, so we're fortunate it happened when we had the appropriate collection of sensitive space telescopes with complementary capabilities available to see it," said Paul Hertz, director of NASA's Astrophysics Division in Washington.
Due to GRB 130427A's relatively close proximity and the vast quantities of data collected from the multi-instrument campaign, it has become something of a GRB "Petri dish."
"The rapid reaction of Swift has enabled us to discover many new and unexpected aspects of GRBs, the strong confirmation of the basic theory by this new very bright burst reassures us that we are on the right track in understanding these extraordinary explosions," said Julian Osborne, Swift team leader at the University of Leicester.
Although astrophysicists will be picking through the data for some time to come, this event has already poked a couple of holes in our understanding of how GRBs work. For example, as highlighted in Fermi data, just as the optical light from the GRB peaked, there was an anomalous spike in highly energetic gamma-rays. The energies associated with this gamma-ray peak topped out at 95 GeV, the most powerful radiation ever seen from a GRB event.
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"We thought the visible light for these flashes came from internal shocks, but this burst shows that it must come from the external shock, which produces the most energetic gamma-rays," said Sylvia Zhu, a Fermi team member at the University of Maryland in College Park.
To probe the very limits of astrophysics, sometimes you need violent events like GRB 130427A to let us know if we really are on the right track.
Image (top): These maps show the sky at energies above 100 MeV as seen by Fermi's LAT instrument. Left: The sky during a 3-hour interval before GRB 130427A. Right: A 3-hour map ending 30 minutes after the burst. GRB 130427A was located in the constellation Leo, near its border with Ursa Major. Credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration