Maryland (US), Dec.10 (ANI): A specialized camera on a telescope operated by U.K. astronomers from Liverpool has made the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a gamma-ray burst (GRB).
The result is reported in the Dec.10 issue of Nature magazine by the team of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) astronomers who built and operate the telescope and its unique scientific camera, named RINGO.
The burst occurred January 2, 2009. NASA's Swift satellite observed its position and immediately notified telescopes all over the world via the Internet. When it received the trigger from Swift, the robotic Liverpool Telescope on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands automatically swung to observe the burst. Its special camera employs a spinning disk of Polaroid -- similar to the material used in sun glasses.
"By observing how the brightness of the GRB varied as we spun the Polaroid, we could measure the magnetic field in the burst," explained Iain Steele, Director of the Liverpool Telescope.
"This important result gives us new insight into the physics of these remarkable objects and is a testament to the close collaboration between observers, theoreticians and technologists in the Liverpool and NASA Swift teams," added LMJU team leader Carole Mundell.
"It's incredible to think that the GRB discovery and our measurement process - from first detection and notification by NASA's Swift satellite to the polarization measurement using RINGO on the Liverpool Telescope - took place completely automatically within less than three minutes and with no human intervention," he added.
"This breakthrough observation gives us the first measurement of magnetic fields in the afterglow of a GRB," said Swift lead scientist Neil Gehrels, Swift lead scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. (ANI)