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The 2011 Prize in Astronomy

Enrico Costa,
Gerald J Fishman

for their leadership of space missions that enabled the demonstration of the cosmological origin of gamma ray bursts, the brightest sources known in the universe.

 

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Enrico Costa,<br/>Gerald J Fishman

The Contribution

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) were first detected serendipitously in 1967 by gamma ray detectors aboard the Vela satellites, and were announced by Klebesadel et al. in 1973. Work by Enrico Costa and Gerald J Fishman in the last two decades have demonstrated that GRBs are of cosmological origin, and are the brightest sources known in the universe.

GRBs are intense flashes of gamma rays emanating from cosmic sources lasting for a few seconds to minutes. During the flash, a GRB outshines any stars and any galaxies in the universe. We now know that the sources of GRBs reside in distant galaxies and that they appear so bright because they emit narrow beams of relativistic particles, and those that are observed happen to have these beams directed toward Earth. We also know that there are at least two distinct types of GRBs. The long-duration bursts are associated with rare types of supernova explosions and may be caused by the formation of a black hole at the centre of a collapsing massive star. The short-duration bursts may be caused by the merger of two neutron stars.

 

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An Essay on the Prize

Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are intense flashes of gamma rays emanating from cosmic sources and lasting for a few seconds to minutes and were first detected serendipitously in 1967 by gamma ray detectors aboard the Vela satellites, and were announced by Klebesadel et al in 1973 the discovery of GRBs.  

To understand the nature of GRBs the first and key step is to determine the distance of GRBs from the Earth. The two experiments, namely Burst and Transient Source Explorer (BATSE) on Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) and BeppoSAX, play a leading role in answering this key question.

 

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About the Laureate

Enrico Costa

Enrico Costa

Enrico Costa was born in 1944. He received a Laurea degree in physics from the University of Rome in 1975. He is Director of Research at the Institute of Space Astrophysics and Cosmic Physics (Rome) of the  National Institute of Astrophysics, Italy.

 

 

7 June 2011  Hong Kong

 

Autobiography

 

 

 

 

Gerald J Fishman

Gerald J Fishman

Gerald J Fishman was born in 1943. He received a PhD in 1970 from the Department of Space Science, Rice University. He is Chief Scientist at the NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center, USA.


7 June 2011  Hong Kong

 

Autobiography

 

 

 

 

Feature Story

 

The Shaw Prize Lecture in Astronomy 2011

"Gamma-ray Bursts: The Largest and Most Distant Explosions in the Universe" by Dr Enrico Costa