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News Release 4 of 10

May 10, 2006 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2006-20

Hubble Finds that Earth is Safe from One Class of Gamma-ray Burst

May 10, 2006: Homeowners may have to worry about floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes destroying their homes, but at least they can remove long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) from their list of potential natural disasters, according to recent findings by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Long-duration gamma-ray bursts are powerful flashes of high-energy radiation that are sometimes seen coming from certain types of supernovae (the explosions of extremely massive stars). If Earth were flashed by a nearby long-duration burst, the devastation could range from destroying the ozone in our atmosphere to triggering climate change and altering life’s evolution. Astronomers analyzing long-duration bursts in several Hubble telescope surveys have concluded that the Milky Way Galaxy is an unlikely place for them to pop off. These images are a sampling of the host galaxies of long-duration bursts taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The green crosshairs pinpoint the location of the gamma-ray bursts, now long faded away.

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Credit: NASA, ESA, A. Fruchter (STScI), and the GOSH Collaboration