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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

False Alarm: The 'GRB' in M31

Oops, it's only an ambulance …

Related source » The 'GRB' in M31: 'via Blog this'
[This related source is recommended in its entirety.]

“I imagine that, from the outside, this looks rather chaotic and disorganised. And the fact that this got publicity across the web and Twitter certainly adds to that! But in fact this highlights the challenges facing professional astronomers. Transient events are, by their nature, well, transient. Some are long lived, but others not. Indeed, this is why Swift exists, to enable us to respond very quickly to the detection of a GRB and gather X-ray, UV and optical data within minutes of the trigger. And Swift is programmed to send what it can of that data straight to the ground (limited bandwidth stops us from sending everything), and to alert the people on duty immediately. The whole reason for this is to allow us to quickly make some statements about the object in question so people can decide whether to observe it with other facilities. This ability has led to many fascinating discoveries, such as the fact that short GRBs are caused by two neutron stars merging, the detection of a supernova shock breaking out of a star and the most distant star even seen by humans, to name just 3.”
— Phil Evans, 2014 May 28 (

For a while last night, the Twitter world lit up with speculation, fascination, and fear. It turned out, however, not to be a "siren-blasting cop car" but an "ambulance".

Reminds me of The Far Side cartoon by the great Gary Larson:

(Image via

Flight attendents: Fresh underwear for all the passengers. ASAP!
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