NASA Calls on Citizen-Scientists to Decode Origins of Universe’s Most Powerful Explosions

Tampa, Fla. – NASA is enlisting citizen-scientists in an effort to unravel the origins of the most powerful explosions in the universe. These explosions, known as gamma-ray bursts, have perplexed astronomers for decades, and their structure remains a mystery. In an attempt to gain a deeper understanding, NASA has launched a program called Burst Chaser, inviting volunteers to help identify the unique signatures of gamma-ray bursts.

Gamma-ray bursts, releasing staggering amounts of energy, are frequently detected by NASA telescopes. Scientists believe they are likely caused by the collapse of massive stars or the merging of multiple neutron stars. These bursts, visible throughout the universe, offer valuable insights into extreme environments that cannot be replicated on Earth. Moreover, they have the potential to reveal crucial information about the formation and evolution of the universe itself.

Due to the unfathomable size of the universe and the constant speed of light, the gamma-ray bursts we observe today actually occurred billions of years ago, closer to the beginning of the universe. They serve as time capsules, preserving valuable data about the conditions that gave rise to today’s celestial bodies. By examining plots that capture energy detected by the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, citizen-scientists participating in NASA’s Burst Chaser initiative will contribute to the first catalog of gamma-ray pulse structures and aid in future research on these colossal explosions.

Amy Lien, the principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor of physics at the University of Tampa specializing in gamma-ray bursts, emphasizes the importance of volunteers’ contributions. The classification of these pulses will provide crucial clues to their true nature. Lien urges participants, saying, “We need your help to classify these pulses for more clues of what they really are!”

In conclusion, NASA is seeking the assistance of citizen-scientists to unlock the secrets behind gamma-ray bursts. By analyzing data from the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, volunteers will contribute to the first-ever catalog of gamma-ray pulse structures, making significant strides in understanding these explosive phenomena.