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Were you watching Bootes last night ? March 20, 2008

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, internet, news, physics, science.

I am subscribed to several discussion groups in the Internet, and my mail box is usually stuffed with messages I do not need. However, just every so often a message worth reading – and passing on – appears. It is the case of the following, which I am glad to paste below. It is a message from George Gliba (gliba@milkyway.gsfc.nasa.gov)

Fellow Observers,

Last night the NASA SWIFT spacecraft saw the most extrinsically
luminous Gamma-ray Burst ever known. Some ground based telescopes
recorded the visual optical afterglow to be 5th magnitude!
Recently I talked to Dr. Chris Shrader who told me about it, as he
is on the Swift team. After confirming it with ASD science writer
Robert Naeye, he told me that it has a redshift of 0.9, which
translates into a distance of 7 billion light years! Robert has
notified the AAVSO to see if there were any visual variable star
observers who may have seen it. Perhaps some meteor observers saw
it or it was seen with a video camera. The time was 6:10 to 6:13
UT March 19, in Bootes. Below is the exact location as reported
by the NASA Swift team member Stephen Holland.
The coordinates for the optical afterglow of GRB 080319B are:
RA(J2000.0) = 14:31:40.97
Dec(J2000.0) = +36:18:07.9
Steven adds:
With an estimated uncertainty of ±0.5 arcseconds. I would be very
interested in knowing if anyone managed to observe this. Such
observations may even have a scientific value in that they would
help pin down the exact shape of the light curve.

So, were you watching Bootes last night ? If you saw a star lit up and then fade away, you might as well send a note to George… Chances are you would be contributing to our still sketchy knowledge on these fantastically energetic explosions.


1. Kea - March 20, 2008

AAARRRGHH! That’s so cool! Quick! Call LIGO.

2. Coin - March 20, 2008

Interesting, I had assumed GRBs were instantaneous sorts of events. I had not realized the afterglow could last *minutes*!

3. Yatima - March 20, 2008

GRBs can last pretty “long”, and of course the farther away the more redshifted and time-stretched their E(t). Depends on their “type”, too. More at the usual suspects:


4. Kea - March 21, 2008
5. Stephen Holland - March 21, 2008

GRB 080319B. the one in Boötes, lasted for about 200 seconds, which makes it one of the longest GRBs seen. The record is about 20 minutes. In the case of GRB 080319B the peak brightness occurred about 23 seconds into the burst, and lasted for a few seconds. Anyone who was looking up at that time would have seen a very brief flash. It could easily be confused with an Iridium flare. If you think you saw something drop me a line. Any observation may be scientifically useful.

6. dorigo - March 21, 2008

Hi Kea,
too bad Ligo won’t see a thing- we’ll have to wait for LISA instead!

Yatima, thank you for the useful link.

Stephen, thank you for the information. I can only support your invitation to get more information on the event. I believe optical observations are very difficult for a 5th magnitude flare, but there should certainly be somebody who imaged the area during those minutes.


7. NASA needs eyewitnesses: Were you at the intersection of Milky Way and Bootës on the evening of March 19? « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub - March 22, 2008

[…] Milky Way and Bootës on the evening of March 19? No kidding.  Our Italian physicist friend Dorigo passed along the note on his blog, Quantum Diaries Survivor.  George Gliba at NASA (gliba@milkyway.gsfc.nasa.gov) hopes someone was watching Bootës at about […]

8. R.Hari - March 26, 2008

The article mentions a red shift of 0.9 which translates to a distance of 7 billion light years. While calculating the red shift of gamma rays is it typical to factor in any red shift due to compton effect?

9. dorigo - March 27, 2008

Hi R.,

sorry, but I do not know the answer to your question. However, I will try to find out.


10. Nikita Nikolaev - April 9, 2008

statistically speaking, we will all know about the nature of these explosions in a few million years, or so🙂 But that’s statistically…

Now, looking back at my comment, a second thought makes me sad and compels to stop reading your blog for today and get back at textbooks. A chance to beat statistics? May be🙂


[…] ESTABAS OBSERVANDO BOOTES AYER A LA NOCHE Via A Quantum Diaries Survivor by Tomasso Dorrigo Un espectacular GRB que llegó a brillar por unos instantes a magnitud visual 6, el mismo día que murió Arthur C. Clarke. GRB 080319B Hora 6:10 to 6:13 UT March 19, en Bootes. z = 0.9 RA(J2000.0) = 14:31:40.97 Dec(J2000.0) = +36:18:07.9 Para mayores informaciones sobre GRB visitar: Gamma-Ray Burst Blog y GAMMA-RAY BURST RECORD: GRB 080319B […]

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