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Picture of the Day

VLA sky survey reveals first 'orphan' gamma-ray burst

Astronomers comparing data from an ongoing major survey of the sky using the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) to data from earlier surveys likely have made the first discovery of the afterglow of a powerful gamma-ray burst (GRB) that produced no gamma-rays detectable on Earth. The unprecedented discovery of this "orphan" GRB offers key clues to understanding the aftermath of these highly energetic events. While searching through data from the first epoch of observing for the VLA Sky Survey (VLASS) in late 2017, the astronomers noted that an object that appeared in images from an earlier VLA survey in 1994 did not appear in the VLASS images. They then searched for additional data from the VLA and other radio telescopes. They found that observations of the object's location in the sky dating back as far as 1975 had not detected it until it first appeared in a VLA image from 1993. From 2001 to 2012, the VLA underwent a major upgrade, greatly increasing its sensitivity, or ability to image faint objects. The upgrade made possible a new, improved survey offering a rich scientific payoff. The earlier surveys have been cited more than 4,500 times in scientific papers and scientists expect VLASS to be a valuable resource for research in the coming years.

Visit Website | Image credit: Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF