September 22nd, 2014

NASA SWIFT: Real-Time GRB Data

Stars have this annoying habit of blowing up when they run out of fuel. Sometimes the star is especially large, resulting in cones of intense gamma-ray radiation being emitted along the star’s axis of rotation. The scientific community calls these beams gamma-ray bursts. GRBs, as they’re sometimes called, are powerful enough to travel billions of light years and punch right through the Earth’s particle field. This field, the Van Allen belt, is named after Dr. James Van Allen, who passed away last Wednesday.

With the increasing density of DRAM cells and the shrinkage of FET gates to mere atoms, it doesn’t take a lot of energy to screw up the delicate progression of ones and zeros through your machines. If you’ve been experiencing inexplicible stability problems, you might want to see if a GRB occured during the crashes. But how? Enter SWIFT.

SWIFT, an orbital GRB detector launched by NASA a few years ago, watches for gigantic space explosions from orbit. When they occur, the satellite reorients itself towards them to gather as much data as possible on these short-lived events. The resulting data, being a product of the Executive branch of the US federal government, is available for free on NASA”s SWIFT site.

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