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Gamma-Ray Bursts: Piecing Together a Cosmic Puzzle

Mercury Spring 2010 Table of Contents

GRB puzzle with pieces missing

Credit: NASA / Swift / M. P. Hrybyk-Keith & J. Jones.

by Zach Cano

Since the serendipitous discovery of GRBs by US spy satellites in the 1960s, thousands of papers have put forward numerous ideas and models to explain the occurrence of the brief flashes of highly energetic gamma rays. But our lack of understanding is not as dire as perhaps it first seems, for key observations during the last 20 years have allowed astronomers to piece together at least part of the puzzle surrounding the GRB phenomenon. Even more exciting, the questions resulting from these observations provide all of astro-physics with the mouth-watering prospect of revealing new physical processes that will not only decipher the long-standing GRB puzzle, but will also increase our understanding of fundamental astrophysics in general.

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